The agent for Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has approached team officials about a contract extension before Hardy enters the final year of his rookie deal. Hardy, 24, had a breakout season in 2012 when he finished with 11 sacks, 23 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles. Hardy, a sixth-round pick from Ole Miss in 2010, is set to make $1.35 million this season after hitting his salary escalators in 2012. Drew Rosenhaus, Hardy's agent, recently initiated contract talks with the Panthers, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation. The Panthers handed out a number of huge contracts two years ago to lock up several members of what ex-general manager Marty Hurney called the team's “core.” Defensive end Charles Johnson received the richest deal in franchise history – a six-year, $76 million extension that included $32 million in guaranteed money. The spending spree has put the Panthers in bad salary cap position for the next several years. They're currently about $3 million under this year's $123 million cap. A crowded field of free agent defensive ends has made for a soft market this year. Former Baltimore DE Paul Kruger signed a reported five-year, $41 million contract with Cleveland that includes $20 million in guarantees, while Cliff Avril went to Seattle for two years and $15 million.