CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Greg Hardy and his representatives are in discussions with the Carolina Panthers about reaching a long-term extension before the season, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
Hardy is coming off a career season in which he had 11 sacks, 23 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles. The defensive end is scheduled to make $1.35 million this season, the final year of his rookie contract.
The Panthers are between $12 million and $13 million under the salary cap after some creative work by new general manager Dave Gettleman, who inherited a roster that was about $16 million over the cap.
If Gettleman and Hardy can agree to a new deal that is stacked heavily on the front end, it would benefit the Panthers, who have a large amount of salary-cap space already committed for 2014.
Neither Gettleman nor Hardy's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, were available for comment. Rosenhaus, according to the Charlotte Observer, approached the Panthers about an extension during the spring.
If a new deal isn't reached and Hardy has another banner year, the Panthers would have the option of using their 2014 franchise tag on the former sixth-round pick out of Mississippi. The tag this season for a defensive end is $11.2 million.
Hardy, who had seven sacks in his first two NFL seasons, teamed with fellow defensive end Charles Johnson for 23.5 sacks last year. Only the tandem of Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon, with 28 in 1996, teamed for more in Panthers history.
Johnson signed a six-year, $76 million deal in 2011.
Hardy declared this past June that his goal for 2013 is an NFL-record 50 sacks, more than twice that of Michael Strahan's 2001 record of 22.5.
"Why shoot low, right? If I'm going to shoot at it, I'm going to shoot at it with a .50 caliber," Hardy said at the time. "I'm going to shoot at a little bird with a .50-caliber bullet. That's the goal for this year -- 50 sacks; that's where I'm at."