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Carolina Panthers release Graham Gano, will go with Joey Slye as kicker

Jonathan M. Alexander and Alaina Getzenberg, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Football

The Carolina Panthers released veteran kicker Graham Gano on Thursday after eight seasons with the team. The starting job will now shift to second-year kicker Joey Slye, who started all of last year while Gano dealt with a left leg injury.

During his time in Carolina, Gano made 85.5% of field goals, a franchise record, and 95% of extra-point attempts.

After missing the last four games in 2018 with a left leg injury, Gano, 33, began to experience soreness in his plant leg during training camp last season and was placed on injured reserve in August 2019. He missed the entire season and had left knee surgery in October.

Panthers' coach Matt Rhule said Wednesday that Gano looked healthy when he returned for training camp. He was among the injured players who reported to camp on July 23 and appeared to pass his physical.

"Graham (Gano) looks healthy, looks great, I obviously haven't seen him kick, but I know that people are really pleased, the medical staff is pleased with how far he's come," Rhule said.

Gano had two years left on a four-year, $17 million contract he signed in 2018 that included $9 million guaranteed, per Spotrac. He was scheduled to make $2.75 million this season.

 

The Panthers will save money this season with the move, but will add $1.5 million in dead cap over the next two years. The team currently leads the league in dead cap money this year, now at about $42.7 million.

Joey Slye, 24, is currently the only kicker on the Panthers' roster. He was awarded the starting job last year after he impressed coaches with his strong leg in the preseason and with Gano being placed on IR prior to the start of the regular season. Slye hit 25 of 32 field goal attempts, including 8 of 11 from 50-plus yards, as an undrafted rookie last season. He also missed four extra-point attempts.

A member of the Panthers since midway through the 2012 season, Gano had one of the best years of his career in 2017. Prior to the start of that season, Gano had a training camp battle with now-Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, but managed to retain his job as the starter with the seventh-round pick placed on the practice squad in an attempt to try and keep both players. Butker, however, was quickly signed by the Chiefs off of Carolina's practice squad and is now one of the league's best kickers, making 89.7% of his field goals since 2017.

Gano made the Pro Bowl for the only time in 2017 after hitting 29 of 30 field goals for a 96.7% field goal conversion rate. He set a franchise record and led the NFL with that field goal percentage. He set another franchise record in 2017 with a league-best 84.3% touchback percentage.

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