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.