PHOENIX - The Cowboys have signed defensive end Greg Hardy to a one-year contract, even though they aren't sure when -- or even if -- he'll be eligible to play this season because of lingering issues associated with his domestic violence case from last year.

But Cowboys coach Jason Garrett believes they will have Hardy at some point this season, and that the team did its "due diligence" in researching his situation. Hardy remains on the commissioner's exempt 'ist and faces punishment for his role in a sexual assault incident with his then-girlfriend last year in Charlotte. He was convicted on two counts of domestic violence in North Carolina before the case was dismissed on appeal. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell continues to examine the case before levying a suspension.

Hardy's contract is incentive-driven and requires that he be on the field in order to receive most of his salary. The contract could be worth as much as $13 million.

"Like with any player, you have to research him," Garrett said. "You have to find out about him. You watch tape, you talk to people. In this particular case, we did an exhaustive process of research and due diligence on [Hardy], going back to high school. We talked to a ton of different people and we got our arms around the fact that we could bring him into our organization and investigate him further."

Garrett is convinced Hardy is ready to change his behavior and become a productive member of the team.

"Obviously, he's one of the real good players at his position in the league, but our job is to make sure he comes in and does things right on a daily basis as a person and as a player," Garrett said. "We are going to try to create that environment for him. He has to respond to it. We have to hold him accountable and move on."

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How complicating a factor is it that the Cowboys don't know when Hardy's situation will be resolved and how long a suspension might last?

"I think we factored that in when we made the decision and we got our arms around what the punishment may or may not be," Garrett said. "We don't know what the punishment is going to be. You can look at the precedents of different punishments they've levied over the last couple of years. We've had conversations with the league about it, but we don't know when it's going to happen and we don't know the extent of the punishment."