After a ridiculously lengthy delay, the NFL has finally ruled on the appeal of the Dallas Cowboys’ Greg Hardy. On May 28th, Hardy and the NFLPA appealed the decision of the league to suspend Hardy for 10 games for multiple counts of “conduct detrimental to the league”. Today, assigned arbitrator Harold Henderson has ruled on the appeal and decided to chop the penalty from 10 to four games.
"We are looking forward to the start of the season and having Greg be a part of the team,'' Jerry Jones said in a statement.
As it stands now, Hardy will be eligible to return Week 5 against the Pats. Under the terms of the original suspension, Hardy is fully eligible to participate in the Cowboys training camp and all preseason games.
The Cowboys signed Hardy this past offseason, fully aware a suspension of some length was imminent, to intensify their lackluster pass rush in 2015. Hardy missed all but the first game of the 2014 season in Carolina after being franchise tagged. He tallied 26 sacks in the two seasons prior, and was the biggest edge rusher available on the free agent market. Dallas signed Hardy to a one-year deal structured to pay him the majority of the deal based on how many games he suits up for.
Currently, Hardy’s cap charge is slightly over $3.2 million. His base salary is $750,000 and that will be knocked down by 1/17th for each week that he is suspended. However, for each game beyond the first two that he plays in 2015, his cap hit will immediately increase $578k. The Cowboys must be able to absorb the additional cap charge with space headed into the season. They entered the day with over $11 million of space remaning.
Hardy was suspended despite the fact that he was not convicted of any crime related to the domestic violence charges stemming from an incident with a female acquaintance, Nicole Holder. Holder chose not to work with prosecution for a jury trial, and due to this lack of cooperation and other factors, they chose not to pursue charges and the case was dismissed. (For our look at Hardy's involvement in the case, click here.) For a look at Hardy on the field for the Cowboys, click here.)
Hardy and the NFLPA are now left to decide if they will file suit, similar to what Minnesota Vikings’ RB Adrian Peterson chose to do when his appeal didn’t turn out how he wanted. Like Peterson’s, a Hardy lawsuit will end up in the courtroom of Judge David Doty in the US District Court. Doty overturned Peterson’s suspension on the grounds that the NFL levied his punishment without regards for the 2011 CBA. The league went beyond the agreed upon punishment for domestic violence, using a new policy developed after the Ray Rice incident to punish Peterson for a violation that occurred under the policy.
The NFL reinstated Peterson, but never went back and issued a new ruling on his suspension (which affects how much of Peterson’s 2014 salary he is due) and is now the subject of a contempt of court process to be reviewed by Doty. In that filing, the NFLPA cited the league’s 10-game ban on Hardy as further proof that the league is not following the court’s direction that they cannot use the new policy on cases that started prior to it’s inception.
The delay in the league reaching a decision on the appeal could have been to give them every opportunity to phrase the decision in a way that prepares for an upcoming court battle. In fact, the league set up Hardy’s initial 10-game suspension under similar considerations. Instead of citing Hardy for domestic violence, they disciplined him for five different violations of conduct detrimental to the league; with each carrying it’s own two-game suspension. This didn’t pass the court of public opinion and will be interesting if it will need to hold up in actual court.