The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking for an edge rusher, and now that Greg Hardy's assault trial has been dismissed, he'll likely be free to sign with whatever team he wants. Some Bucs fans are already asking for Lovie Smith and Jason Licht to pull open the checkbook for the Carolina Panthers defensive end.
That makes a lot of sense. Lovie Smith needs quality edge rushers in his defense, and Hardy put up 11 and 15 sacks in 2012 and 2013 respectively, before sitting out almost all of 2014 thanks to his assault trial. On the field, there's no question that he'd fit the Buccaneers.
Off the field, however, is another question entirely. Hardy's case wasn't dismissed because it was baseless: he was found guilty in a bench trial last year, which automatically leads to an appeal and a jury trial under North Carolina law. In the intervening eight months, the accuser disappeared leading to the prosecution case falling apart for legal purposes, which means Hardy won't be punished under the law. But Hardy's original conviction happened in circumstances where all of the evidence was available.
This is not someone who got caught smoking weed or partying a little too hard. Greg Hardy was found guilty of physically assaulting his ex-girlfriend, who alleged that he threatened to kill her and claimed that the assault sent her to the emergency room.
That's why the NFL also reserves the right to suspend him, and he remains on the commissioner's exempt list until the league has reviewed the case, per the Charlotte Observer.
I wouldn't be comfortable signing Hardy to a contract given what I know, but I don't make the decisions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jason Licht and Lovie Smith do. Smith has never condoned outright criminal behavior on his team. When Tank Johnson faced a series of legal issues toward the end of 2006, the Chicago Bears initially worked with him before cutting ties after he was caught speeding. There is room for error with Lovie Smith, but it's not unending.
Finding quality pass rushers is difficult, and Hardy's considerable talent may convince the Buccaneers to ignore his off-field behavior. At this point it's hard to tell where the Bucs draw the line on character issues, exactly. But my instinct says Hardy is a bridge too far for Lovie Smith and Jason Licht.