Panthers Rumors

2020 NFL Opt Out Tracker

Per an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, players with COVID-19 health concerns can opt out of the 2020 season. Initially, the deadline was believed to be Tuesday, August 4. Recently, we learned that the deadline is set for seven days after the final execution of the agreement. The lawyers are still hashing out some paperwork matters, so the NFL is looking to push up the date.

Chiefs guard and medical school graduate Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was the first player to officially opt out. This week, scores of players followed.

Here’s the rundown, so far:

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

  • OL Anthony McKinney

Washington Football Team

Free agents

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Panthers Release DE Chris Smith

In addition to releasing kicker Graham Gano, the Panthers parted ways with another vested veteran Thursday. They cut defensive end Chris Smith, David Newton of notes.

The Panthers signed Smith as a street free agent just before the new league year began. A six-year veteran, Smith signed a one-year deal with Carolina in March. He has played for the Jaguars, Bengals and Browns in a six-year career.

Smith’s two-year Cleveland tenure involved a tragedy; his girlfriend was killed in a traffic accident in September 2019. Smith played nine games for the Browns last season. He started two for Cleveland in 2018 but worked as a depth piece for the Jaguars and Bengals. He visited both the Bengals and Panthers in March.

Teams are gradually moving their rosters from the 90-man limit to 80 players, which will be the most teams can carry when on-field work begins August 16. While most teams have opted to cut less experienced players, the Panthers chose to jettison two more veterans during a year in which the team parted ways with numerous high-profile players.

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Panthers Release K Graham Gano

The Panthers have released Graham Gano, according to a social media post from his wife (Twitter link via Joe Person of The Athletic). The veteran kicker was slated to make $3MM this year.

Joey Slye, meanwhile, is under contract for just $675K. It’s a cost-cutting maneuver for Carolina, though the team will be left with even more dead money on the books. The Panthers have saved $2.8MM while taking on a leftover $1.5MM charge, to be dispersed over the next two years. All in all, the Panthers overhaul has saddled them with nearly $43MM in dead money in 2020.

Gano was tremendous in his last full season in 2017, sinking 29 of his 30 field goal tries for a league-leading 96.7% conversion rate. That performance earned him the first Pro Bowl bid of his career, and it also helped him secure a four-year, $17MM deal. Before his release, Gano had the fifth-highest AAV ($4.25MM) of any kicker in the NFL.

Now, the job belongs to Slye. Known for his strong leg, Slye nailed 78.1% of his kicks in 2019, with an 8-of-11 success rate from 50+ yards. He also missed four extra point tries, but the Panthers seem to think that he’ll tamp that number down moving forward.

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Minor NFL Transactions: 7/28/20

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the afternoon. With teams having until August 16 to cut their rosters from 90 to 80 players, many are doing so before on-field camp work begins.

Carolina Panthers

  • Claimed off waivers (from Patriots): LB Kyahva Tezino
  • Waived: OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • Waived/NFI: WR Zimari Manning

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

New York Giants

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team

Panthers P Michael Palardy Tears ACL

The Panthers will make a change at punter this season. They have placed Michael Palardy on their reserve/non-football injury list. This will end his season.

This comes after Palardy, Carolina’s punter since 2016, suffered a torn ACL while training independently this summer, Tom Pelissero of tweets. The tear is in Palardy’s left leg, his kicking leg. While the five-year veteran hoped to kick through this, Pelissero adds surgery is now on tap.

Palardy has been the Panthers’ full-time punter since the start of the 2017 season. The franchise signed him in 2016, when he kicked in seven games for the then-defending NFC champions. Palardy has twice averaged 46 yards per punt, doing so in 2017 and ’19. He ranked 13th in this category last season.

The Panthers may well add a veteran leg to compete with rookie UDFA Joseph Charlton, who operated as South Carolina’s punter for the past three seasons.

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Panthers Wrap Draft Class

The Panthers have signed their entire 2020 NFL Draft class, per a club announcement. First-round pick Derrick Brown got the party started in the spring, but the rest waited until this week to put pen to paper. The full rundown:

1-7: Derrick Brown, DT (Auburn): Signed
2-38: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE (Penn State): Signed
2-64: Jeremy Chinn, DB (Southern Illinois): Signed
4-113: Troy Pride Jr., CB (Notre Dame): Signed
5-152: Kenny Robinson, S (West Virginia): Signed
6-184: Bravvion Roy, DT (Baylor): Signed
7-221: Stantley Thomas-Oliver III, CB (Florida International): Signed

Gross-Matos stood out with 17.5 sacks and 37 hurries over the last two seasons, plus solid work against the run. On the flipside, some evaluators had concerns about his bulk. He’ll have to put some more muscle on his 6’5″, 265-pound frame in order to be a reliable three-down defensive lineman.

On the other side of the ball, the Panthers say they’ll be hanging on to wide receiver Curtis Samuel, despite an offseason full of trade rumors.

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Panthers Jettison Two Scouts

  • The Panthers did not renew the contracts of scouts Don Warren and Clyde Powers, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Both staffers were Dave Gettleman hires. Warren was a three-time Super Bowl champion as a tight end with the Redskins, for whom he also worked as a scout prior to his Panthers stay.

Panthers OC: Curtis Samuel To Be Key Part Of Offense

The subject of trade rumors this offseason, Curtis Samuel generated interest around the draft. Teams consistently contacted the Panthers about their contract-year wideout, but he remains in Carolina.

Despite the Panthers signing ex-Matt Rhule Temple receiver Robby Anderson and rostering Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, the rebuilding team plans to make room for Samuel to play an essential role in its new offense.

Curtis is going to be critical to success,” Panthers OC Joe Brady said, via the Charlotte Observer’s Alaina Getzenberg. “I wish I could have had an opportunity to be out at practices and whatnot, and Curtis is the one that I can’t wait to see him do what he does on the field. Curtis is a playmaker. He fits the mold of what we’re looking for in this type of offense, a guy that you can utilize all around the field and get the ball in the hands and good things happen.

I think you saw stuff last year that shows that he can be a big-play wide receiver, down the field. We’re getting the ball in space, and I’m excited for him to take the next leap.”

Samuel sticking in Carolina for the 2020 season would give the Panthers an interesting array of weaponry. The former second-round pick established career-high numbers in catches (54), receiving yards (627) and touchdowns (six) last season. However, the Panthers added both Seth Roberts and ex-Saint Keith Kirkwood this offseason, forming a crowded receiving corps.

The Panthers have moved on from several cornerstone players this offseason, so a Samuel deal should not be ruled out for a team not expected to be a contender this season. But for now the Panthers are planning to have him in the fold as a flashy fourth option.

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This Date In Transactions History: Panthers Extend Michael Oher

On this date in 2016, the Panthers agreed to a brand new three-year, $21.6MM deal with Michael Oher. Unfortunately, Oher never played a down under the new contract. 

[Poll: Which First-Round WR Will Make The Biggest Impact In 2020?]

Oher, of “Blindside” fame, found his way to the Panthers after an up-and-down career with the Ravens and Titans. His first deal was a modest one – two years, $7MM – and he quickly proved to be a bargain. Oher played in 98.4% of the team’s snaps in 2015 as the starting left tackle. With Oher as Cam Newton‘s protector, the Panthers went all the way to Super Bowl 50 before losing to the Broncos.

With one year remaining on his contract, the Panthers wanted to lock Oher up long before he could reach the open market. Thanks to Oher’s personal progression and the progression of the tackle market, he netted more than $7MM per annum on his new deal from Dave Gettleman & Co.

The new deal was set to start in 2017, but things did not go according to plan. After just three games in the 2016 season, a concussion shut Oher down for the season. Then, in the offseason, things took a strange turn. Oher was alleged to have fought an Uber driver in the spring and later posted a picture to Instagram with what appeared to be bottles of prescription medication to deal with brain injuries. The now deleted photo was captioned, “All for the brain, [shaking my head].”

In July of that year, the Panthers released Oher with a failed physical designation. The move saved them just $1.69MM against the cap but allowed Oher to collect injury compensation. With that, Oher’s contract was over before it even began.

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Graham Gano’s Recovery Progressing Well

Panthers kicker Graham Gano is progressing well in his recovery from knee surgery, special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn tells Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer. Gano was placed on IR towards the end of the 2018 season with a fractured femur, and though he was on the field during the early stages of training camp in 2019, he was unable to shake the injury and ultimately went under the knife.

Joey Slye took over kicking duties in Gano’s absence last year, hitting 78.1% of his field goal attempts, not a particularly strong mark. He also missed four PATs.

Gano, meanwhile, was tremendous in his last full season in 2017, sinking 29 of his 30 field goal tries for a league-leading 96.7% conversion rate (with his only miss coming from 50-yard territory). That performance earned him the first Pro Bowl bid of his career, and it also helped him secure a four-year, $17MM contract from Carolina the following offseason. His AAV of $4.25MM positions him as the fifth-highest-paid kicker in the game.

Because injured players have been allowed to be in team facilities even during the pandemic, Gano has been able to do some kicking work in familiar surroundings. Head athletic trainer Kevin King reported that Gano looks good, and it sounds as if he and Slye will be battling it out this summer.

“The (kicking) battle as far as that’s concerned, I mean, in reality, we’re in a very, very blessed situation, because we got two very capable kickers with really talented legs,” Blackburn said. “There’s plenty of teams around the NFL right now that would be very excited to have the competition that we have going. But at the biggest part right now, I haven’t seen (Gano) kick or anything, we’re just working on this offseason program and we’re just trying to finish this strong.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.