Graham Gano

Panthers Re-Sign K Graham Gano

The Panthers won’t be using the franchise tag on Graham Gano. Carolina has locked up the kicker with a four-year deal worth $17MM, according to Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). The pact includes $9MM guaranteed.

Heading into the offseason, outsiders assumed that the Panthers’ primary franchise tag candidate would be guard Andrew Norwell with an outside possibility that defensive tackle Star Lotulelei could be hit with the one-year placeholder. Instead, Gano was reportedly the only player in the mix for the tag. This year, the NFL set the tag for kickers at $4.939MM. That’s significantly cheaper than the offensive line tag ($14.077MM) and the defensive tackle tag ($13.939MM).

In theory, the Panthers can now use their franchise tag on another player now that Gano has been re-signed. However, everything we’ve heard up until this point indicates that the Panthers will allow both Norwell and Lotulelei to explore the open market.

Last year, Gano led the league in field goal percentage as he nailed 96.7% of his attempts en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance. He also led the league in touchbacks with 84.8% of his kickoffs resulting in the opposing team starting from the 20-yard line.

In terms of total value, Gano’s deal ranks fourth behind Dan Bailey, Ryan Succop, and Stephen Gostkowski amongst kickers. However, his average annual value of $4.25MM makes him the second-highest paid kicker in the NFL, trailing only Gostkowski. His total guarantee of $9MM puts him third in that category behind Justin Tucker and Gostkowski and just ahead of Succop.

After a shaky 2016, a lucrative long-term deal did not seem possible for Gano. Two seasons ago, Gano made just 30 of 38 field goal attempts and used a draft pick on Harrison Butker to open up a kicking competition. Today, Gano stands as one of the highest-paid players at his position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers, Gano Discussing Extension

The Panthers are working on a long-term deal with Pro Bowl kicker Graham Gano, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). If a deal does not get done by Tuesday at 4pm ET/3pm CT, they’ll likely use the franchise tag on him. 

Early on in the offseason, it seemed likely that guard Andrew Norwell would be the most likely of any Panthers player to receive the franchise tag, a designation that can only be used on one player per team. However, the Panthers do not see room in the budget for a one-year, $14.5MM placeholder on Norwell given that they have already given a lucrative long-term extension to right guard Trai Turner. From the outside, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei also seemed to be a candidate for the tag, but that has also been ruled out by Carolina brass.

It’s not typical for a kicker to receive the franchise tag, but the tag price for kickers – estimated to fall between $4.8MM and $5MM – is more palatable than the cost for offensive linemen or interior defensive linemen.

Gano’s representatives are likely to use Ryan Succop‘s recent accord with the Titans as a framework for his deal. Succop’s extension is worth $20MM over five years with $7.25MM guaranteed at signing and a healthy cash flow of $8.25MM over the first two years. In terms of yearly average amongst kickers, Succop’s $4MM year falls behind only Stephen Gostkowski (Patriots, $4.3MM/year), Justin Tucker (Ravens, $4.2MM/year), and Mason Crosby (Packers, $4.025MM/year).

Gano’s 96.7% field goal percentage led the NFL in 2017 and former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman is reportedly hoping to bring him to the Giants. If the Panthers get an extension done with Gano, or if they use the tag on him, Gettleman’s reunion plans will be scuttled.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Expected To Target Graham Gano

The Giants are expected to pursue free agent kicker Graham Gano, according to Dan Duggan of NJ.com.Graham Gano (Vertical)

Gano, of course, would need to actually reach the free agent market before New York can go after him. The Panthers, who have employed the 30-year-old Gano for the past six seasons, are reportedly considering using the franchise tag on their veteran kicker. The franchise tender for placekickers is expected to be worth $4.604MM, a steep raise over Gano’s current $3.1MM annual salary.

Gano led the NFL in field goal conversion rate with a 96.7% success mark in 2017, and that performance earned him his first career Pro Bowl nod. In terms of advanced metrics, Gano was worth 6.3 points through his field goal and extra point work, good for eighth in the league, per Football Outsiders.

The Giants are seemingly aiming to replace Aldrick Rosas, who converted only 72% of his field goal attempts in what was his rookie campaign. New York general manager Dave Gettleman previously served in the same role for the Panthers, so he’s clearly familiar with Gano’s ability.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers May Franchise Tag K Graham Gano

The Panthers are leaning toward placing their franchise tag on kicker Graham Gano rather than guard Andrew Norwell, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). This is a shift from a report on Monday from Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer that said the team was unlikely to use its franchise tag. Graham Gano (Vertical)

The franchise tag for kickers and punters is expected to be in the $5MM range. Gano, 30, was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season, connecting on 29 of 30 field goals. There is a precedent for placing the franchise tag on a kicker, as the Ravens and Justin Tucker, as well as Stephen Gostkowski and the Patriots, have done so in recent years. Gano has a career 81.8% success rate through 257 field goal attempts.

Norwell was selected as an All-Pro for the first time last season and the offensive lineman franchise tag is expected to be $14.3MM. Rapoport went on to note (Twitter link) that Norwell is set to be one of the top free agents, regardless of position, but the Panthers are in a tough spot because the offensive lineman franchise tag is meant to apply to tackles. The Patriots were the last team to place a franchise tag on a guard, using it on Logan Mankins in 2011. Norwell has started all 16 games the last two seasons at left guard for the Panthers, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2014.

Also serving as a potential franchise tag candidate for the Panthers is defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, though Person noted in his story that the team may elect to give more playing time to 2016 first-round pick Vernon Butler at defensive tackle.

The window for teams to use their franchise tags began Tuesday and ends on March 6, a week before free agency opens.

Panthers Not Expected To Use Franchise Tag

In 2016, the Panthers placed the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman before rescinding it, allowing him to sign with the Redskins. The following year, they placed the tag on Kawann Short and signed him to a long-term deal the following month. "<strong

They are not expected to use it this year, however, writes Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer.

The most obvious candidate on the roster to receive the tag was Andrew Norwell, the undrafted free agent in 2014 who earned All-Pro honors in 2017. With the team signing Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner to a four-year extension in the 2017 offseason, it is not likely to invest the $14.3 MM tag on another guard. Person also notes guards are typically not franchise tag candidates, with Logan Mankins in 2011 with the Patriots being the last guard to receive the distinction.

Other candidates included defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and kicker Graham Gano. After signing Short to a long-term deal in the previous offseason, the Panthers can let Lotulelei head to free agency and give more playing time to 2016 first-round pick Vernon Butler, Person writes.

Teams can officially put the franchise tag on players beginning on February 20. They have until March 6, about a week before the start of free agency, to decide to use the tag.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Working Out K Andrew Franks

The Panthers are working out a group of kickers that includes free agent Andrew Franks on Tuesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).Andrew Franks (Vertical)

While incumbent kicker Graham Gano has not been ruled out for next week’s game against the Buccaneers, he is dealing with a knee injury. Gano appeared on Carolina’s injury report late last week, and subsequently had ice on his knee following the Panthers’ 17-3 loss to the Bears on Sunday, tweets Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. Gano converted his lone field goal attempt yesterday, a 36-yarder that represented Carolina’s only points on the day.

The Panthers began the season with rookie kicker Harrison Butker on their practice squad, but he’s since been snatched up the Chiefs (and performed rather well). Franks, meanwhile, was the Dolphins’ kicker for each of the past two seasons, but he converted just 78.4% of his field goal attempts during that time. He’s auditioned for the Redskins, Buccaneers, and Jaguars since being released by Miami, but has yet to land a contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Claim CB Ladarius Gunter

Former Packers cornerback Ladarius Gunter was claimed off waivers by the Panthers, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. In a corresponding move, the Panthers are releasing kicker Harrison ButkerLadarius Gunter (vertical)

Gunter had the most defensive snaps of any Packers cornerback in 2016. He was productive early on, but he slowed down towards the end of the season and slipped down the depth chart over the summer. He was on the field for only two snaps in Green Bay’s season opener.

The release of Butker means that Graham Gano will be sticking with the team. Earlier this month, the Panthers were receiving calls of trade interest in Gano, leading to speculation that they could move him for a draft pick and stick with Butker. That won’t be the case as the Georgia Tech product is now subject to waivers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Teams Inquiring On Kicker Graham Gano

With the Panthers currently rostering a pair of kickers, it sounds like the organization is considering trading some of their depth. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that teams have called the Panthers to inquire on veteran kicker Graham Gano. We learned earlier this week that the organization was shopping rookie kicker Harrison Butker and veteran punter Andy Lee.

Graham Gano (Vertical)The 30-year-old Gano has found a home in Carolina, where he’s spent the past five seasons. The former undrafted free agent out of Florida State isn’t necessarily known for his consistency, as he’s only connected 79.7-percent of his field goals during his career. However, he has made 96.4-percent of his extra point attempts, and he’s also competent at kickoffs. Last season, Gano connected on only 78.9-percent of his field goals, his lowest percentage since 2011.

Meanwhile, the team used a seventh-round pick on Butker, who has connected on a lone 51-yard field goal this preseason. The Georgia Tech product only connected on 71.7-percent of his field goals while in college, but he did convert 99-percent of his extra point attempts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Cards, Falcons, Panthers, Hawks

If Carson Palmer retires after the 2017 season, Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic (on Twitter) could see a scenario in which the Cardinals make a run at Kirk Cousins or perhaps Sam Bradford. Both players would be a schematic fit for the Cardinals and there won’t be a ton of other established quarterbacks available. If Cousins is an unrestricted free agent, the Cardinals could have a hard time bidding against the rival 49ers as they will be loaded with cap space.

A few more items from the NFC:

  • The popular belief for the past several months is that Falcons running back Devonta Freeman will sign a contract extension prior to the season, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk isn’t so sure anymore. Evidenced by the fact that Freeman still isn’t under contract past 2017, Florio observes that it hasn’t been an easy negotiation between the two sides, and he wonders if the 25-year-old will roll the dice and go without a new deal this season in hopes of upping his stock even more. As such, the Falcons might have to decide next offseason whether to place the franchise tag on Freeman for $12.1MM – a marked increase over his $1.8MM salary for this year – or let him hit the open market.
  • Panthers kicker Graham Gano is on the bubble thanks to the addition of seventh-round pick Harrison Butker, David Newton of ESPN.com writes. The selection of the Georgia Tech product was the first time the Panthers have ever drafted a place kicker and it’s a sign that they could be moving on from the veteran. Gano missed several big kicks last season and converted on just 78.9% of his attempts.
  • Seahawks quarterback Trevone Boykin still has to appear in front of a judge in August for his March arrest, but he has some good news on another front. Boykin has skirted jail time for a separate potential parole violation, as Gregg Bell of The News Tribune writes. Boykin was facing up to a year in jail for that charge, but he’ll pay a small fine instead. The Seahawks reportedly are not expecting Boykin to be disciplined by the league for his actions, so his off-the-field missteps shouldn’t impact his job security as Russell Wilson‘s backup.
  • It was a busy afternoon in Carolina, which signed guard Trai Turner to a big-money extension and said goodbye to offensive tackle Michael Oher.

Connor Byrne contributed to this post.

Panthers Notes: Newton, Gano, Cotchery

Christian McCaffrey will be catching passes from Cam Newton this weekend and next, the Panthers rookie running back told the NFL Network’s Alex Flanagan (via NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman). It will mark a key step in Newton’s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. The seventh-year quarterback threw his first passes of the offseason late last month and looks to be attempting to ramp up his activity in the days leading up to the Panthers’ training camp, which begins July 26. Newton underwent surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in late March. Since, the Panthers added McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel in the first two rounds of the draft and picked up Charles Johnson and Russell Shepard in free agency.

Here’s the latest coming out of Charlotte as the NFC’s 2015 Super Bowl representative attempts to mount a resurgence after a rough follow-up season.

  • Graham Gano underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his plant foot, according to Jourdan Rodrique of the Charlotte Observer. The 30-year-old kicker missed eight field goals last season, his most since missing 10 with the 2011 Redskins, and the Panthers drafted Harrison Butker in the seventh round to compete. Out of Georgia Tech, Butker is the first kicker the Panthers have drafted in their 23-year history. Ron Rivera said he planned to bring in competition for Gano this offseason, and while he did, Rodrique expects Gano to be the Panthers’ kicker for a sixth season.
  • Although Michael Oher plans to attend camp, the Panthers have not provided much to suggest he is in the team’s plans, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer notes. Person also predicts the Panthers will sign Mike Adams after making the decision to cut Oher. A former Steelers starter, Adams last played with the Bears in 2016. Since the Bears placed Adams on IR in December, nothing’s emerged involving the 27-year-old tackle.
  • Person expects Matt Kalil to take a step back toward his Pro Bowl rookie season of 2012. While the writer doesn’t believe Kalil will get back to Hawaii, he believes the five-year, $55MM deal won’t become a sunk cost. Kalil’s recovered from 2016 hip surgery, per Person, and obviously has his brother as a key sounding board now that he’s landed in Charlotte.
  • Jerricho Cotchery is now working as an assistant wide receivers coach with the Panthers, with whom he played from 2014-15. The Panthers hired him this offseason, C. Jackson Cowart reports for the Charlotte Observer, and this season stands to be the 35-year-old’s first year of coaching. Cotchery played 12 NFL seasons — with the Jets, Steelers and Panthers — and carved out roles on seven playoff teams.
  • One of Cotchery’s charges this offseason, UDFA wideout Austin Duke faces an uphill battle to make the Panthers’ roster. However, he did draw interest from the Falcons as a post-draft free agent, but he opted to sign with the Panthers on just a $1,000 signing bonus, per Cowart. The 5-foot-9 wideout caught 59 passes for 803 yards and four touchdowns with UNC-Charlotte last season.
  • Agent Drew Rosenhaus did not rule out a holdout when discussing options for client Greg Olsen.