2:15pm: The Panthers’ search will start with Brian Johnson, a Virginia Tech product who kicked in seven games with Washington and New Orleans last season, Person tweets. Johnson was 10-for-10 on field goal attempts but missed four extra points as a rookie.
1:21pm: After the news of Sam Darnold‘s injury, the Panthers have another veteran set to miss what looks like an extended time period. Zane Gonzalez suffered what Matt Rhule called a significant, long-term injury, David Newton of ESPN.com tweets. He suffered the setback during warmups.
Gonzalez, whom the Panthers re-signed this offseason, sustained a groin injury. As a result, the Panthers are looking for a replacement kicker. Gonzalez, 27, is the only one on Carolina’s roster. The Panthers can stash him on IR after roster cutdown day.
The former Browns and Cardinals specialist missed the final four games of last season due to a quadriceps injury. He re-signed with the Panthers on a two-year, $4.5MM deal in March. Gonzalez has not kicked in a full season since 2019, when he was with the Cardinals. He connected on a career-high 90.9% of his field goal tries in 2021 and was 22-for-23 on PATs with the Panthers last season.
Carolina has gone through some kicker turnover in recent years. The team moved on from Joey Slye after two seasons and ditched Slye’s replacement — 2021 trade acquisition Ryan Santoso — after one game. Lirim Hajrullahu also worked as the team’s primary Gonzalez replacement. Hajrullahu is available, after the Cowboys waived him last week.
Rhule said the team will look at free agent fill-in options while examining teams with two-kicker rosters presently. Kickers will be available on the waiver wire Tuesday, when rosters must be slashed from 80 to 53 players. New special teams coordinator Chris Tabor will help with the search, per The Athletic’s Joe Person, who notes recently cut Jets kicker Eddy Pineiro will be a name to monitor (Twitter link). Tabor coached Pineiro with the Bears.