Greg Hardy 'excited' about tender

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy remains hopeful he can work out a long-term deal with the Carolina Panthers before the July 15 deadline.

Hardy officially signed his franchise tender Tuesday, assuring he will earn $13.1 million this season.

"We're going on good faith like we have been this whole time,'' Hardy said Wednesday during an appearance at ESPN. "People have been talking trash about me, talking about blah, blah, blah ... [I want] bucket loads of cash. Oh, I'm not coming back. I'm full of crap.

"I signed a tender like I said I would. You're really 100 percent incorrect if you don't think I'm excited about $13.1 [million].''

The $13.1 million tag number is more than 10 times the $1.3 salary that Hardy, who often refers to himself by his alter persona "The Kraken,'' earned in 2013.

"It's a lot better than a million dollars,'' he said when explaining why he was happy with the franchise tag. "It's a lot better than no million dollars. I'm pretty excited about it. It helps that I'm a sixth-round draft pick and ain't got no money. It's pretty cool to be the guy they waste a franchise tag on, because you've only got one.

"I could see the dislike in it. You don't get the deal and you do have to play out your thing, but that's what I've been doing for four years. I'm used to it.''

This past season, Hardy said he wouldn't mind the franchise tag while the team gets its financial house in order. He also said he wanted to remain with the team that selected him in the sixth round of the 2010 draft.

"This is me saying I've got no problem showing you what I've been showing you every single day of every single year,'' said Hardy, styling in a navy blue blazer in what he called "Kraken'' swag.

"Progress. Getting better.''

Hardy had a team-best 15 sacks in 2013. He has 26 sacks in the past two seasons after having only seven in his first two seasons.

Coach Ron Rivera said he wanted Hardy back because he played a big role in the team being ranked No. 2 in total defense. That Hardy can play both end positions as well as tackle made him Carolina's most versatile defensive lineman.

Hardy said there never was a concern that he wouldn't return to Carolina.

"The best way for athletes in the future to handle it is exactly the way I handled it,'' he said. "Don't worry about it. If you're going to pay an agent ... you need to let him do his job. You can't do your job thinking about the money. I didn't go to college for that.''

The Panthers still have 18 unrestricted free agents with the March 11 deadline approaching for them to hit the open market. They also have a decision to make on whether to move forward with wide receiver Steve Smith, who is scheduled to count $7 million against the salary cap this season.

"Honestly, it's going to be interesting to see how they're going to put it all together,'' Hardy said. "They're doing a good job of keeping it under wraps. Right now all I can say is it's going to be interesting, seeing who comes, who goes.''

On Smith's situation, Hardy said, "I stay out of it, man. But opinion-wise, I want him to stay. He's a Hall of Fame receiver. You need those guys around whether they're young or not. He's helped me out. He's helped me with my attitude, things he's been through.''

Hardy joked throughout the season that everyone would know he had a big deal because there would be a new expensive car in the stadium parking lot. He's still not sure what that car will be.

"I don't know, man,'' Hardy said. "I've got to go shopping.''