Greg Hardy would take less money to stay

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Defensive end Greg Hardy wants to remain a member of the Carolina Panthers after this season. He's so happy here that he'd consider taking less money to stay.

He won't say how much less.

He just wants to stay, believing he's a part of the best front four in the NFL and a Carolina team, 10-4 heading into Sunday's NFC South showdown against the New Orleans Saints, that has a chance to be a consistent playoff contender.

"I'm not an agent or the team," Hardy said. "I'm not paid to negotiate. But I know to have something great, you've got to give a little bit, too. I believe I'm going to great."

This is yet another example of the strong chemistry the Panthers have developed during what has turned into a breakout year for coach Ron Rivera and his players.

I say this because Hardy never has hesitated to talk about wanting a big contract and a expensive, classic car. He felt he should have gotten an extension after his second season in 2011, when he burst onto the scene as a starter.

There was an effort to get a deal done before this season, but that never happened. Hardy says he hasn't heard a lot on his end lately, so you couldn't blame him if he waited to see what the offseason market offered.

And he may still do that.

But his preference is to stay.

"As far as getting paid, I feel it's more about loyalty, respect and consistency," Hardy said. "I would say yeah, I do all those things. I do think I deserve a little bit."

Hardy doesn't have the 50 sacks he playfully set as a goal before the season. He's not even close with eight. But he has 33 quarterback pressures, by far the most on the team, and his ability to play every position on the line has given defensive coordinator Sean McDermott more flexibility in his game plan.

"A terrible feeling," Hardy said of not being able to turn some of the pressures to sacks. "But I like it. It makes me that much more hungry to get there faster.''

Hardy is in the final year of his four-year rookie contract earning $1.35 million. Fellow defensive end and team sack leader Charles Johnson got a six-year, $76 million deal in 2011 that was the highest in team history. Hardy isn't likely to get that much in today's market.

The Panthers also have a new general manager to deal with in Dave Gettleman, who has been more frugal with his spending than former GM Marty Hurney.

Hardy's main focus is beating New Orleans and making sure he's prepared to make an impact on the outcome.

"To reiterate myself, it's got to be worth it," Hardy said. "But I will take less than another team if Carolina's price is right."