The Panthers signed kicker Graham Gano to a new four-year extension, opting not to use their franchise tag on a…kicker.
The Carolina Panthers didn’t give kicker Graham Gano the franchise tag after all. They signed him to a four-year extension worth up to $17 million, with $9 million in guaranteed money. The deal takes the 30-year-old Gano off the open market.
Gano started his career in 2009, kicking for the Washington Redskins for three years before joining Carolina. He just finished his sixth season with the Panthers, and it was possibly the most successful yet. He converted 29-of-30 field goal attempts, including 10-of-11 from 40 or more yards.
If there’s one flaw to his game, it’s that he doesn’t have much accuracy from long distance. Over his nine-year career, he’s just 17-of-31 from over 50 yards.
Otherwise, Gano is a reliable kicker for the Panthers. Earlier in the week, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported that Carolina would give Gano the franchise tag if the two sides didn’t agree on a deal. They were able to avoid that, signing Gano just hours before the deadline passed for teams to tag players.
Signing Gano is an early accomplishment for the Panthers, who are trying to reload their offensive personnel this offseason. They released running back Jonathan Stewart and let guard Andrew Norwell walk in free agency. Even with those moves, Carolina’s salary cap space is somewhat limited ($29.08 million, per Over The Cap). They also don’t have many reliable weapons behind Christian McCaffrey and Devn Funchess.
General manager Marty Hurney might rely on the draft to give Cam Newton and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner more playmaking talent. In the meantime, the Panthers will rest assured that their kicker situation is resolved.
The kicker market has thinned out quickly. Gano, Matt Bryant, Adam Vinatieri and Ryan Succop all re-signed with their original teams, taking them out of the running in free agency. Teams hoping to upgrade that position in free agency might end up disappointed when all is said and done.