Graham Gano

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.

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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.

Panthers Sticking With Kicker Graham Gano

The Panthers are standing by kicker Graham Gano even after he missed another critical kick during yesterday’s contest against the Saints, as head coach Ron Rivera told reporters, including Joe Person of Charlotte Observer.Graham Gano (Vertical)

[RELATED: Panthers Re-Sign DE Wes Horton]

“We’re going to stand pat,” Rivera said. “If you go back and you evaluate it as an extra-point kicker, he’s right about 95 percent, which is a little bit more than league average I believe. And then in clutch kicks, again he’s well above the league average.”

Gano missed an extra point on Sunday that would have allowed the Panthers to tie New Orleans late in a game that Carolina ultimately lost, dropping the club to 1-5 on the year. The 29-year old Gano was also wide on a game-winning field goal attempt in Week 1 against the Broncos, and missed another kick in a Week 5 loss to the Buccaneers.

For what it’s worth, Rivera didn’t sound quite so certain earlier in the day, as Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review writes. “Well, we’ll see,” Rivera said about Gano’s status. “You’ve got to look at what’s happened not just now but what’s happened over the period of time. There are some things that we’re going to look at and evaluate (over the bye week), obviously, and we’ll see what happens.”

If Carolina does opt to make a change, veteran kickers such as Robbie Gould, Randy Bullock, Kai Forbath, Garrett Hartley, and Shayne Graham present the best options on the free agent market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Sign Graham Gano To Four-Year Deal

MARCH 4: Gano’s contract included a $3MM signing bonus and $3.95MM in guaranteed money, tweets Tom Pelissero of USA Today. It’ll count as $1.75MM against the cap in 2014, and includes escalators for the final three years.

FEBRUARY 28: The Panthers have re-signed kicker Graham Gano to a four-year contract, the club announced today in a press release. Gano’s deal, which will keep the kicker under team control through the 2017 season, is worth $12.4MM and could max out at $13MM, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).

“The special teams unit was a large part of our success last year, and we are excited to keep Graham as a part of our team,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said in a statement. “Graham has shown range and accuracy in his field goal kicking, and his strong leg has been a weapon for us on kickoffs.”

Gano, 26, had his best NFL season in 2013, converting 24 of 27 field goals for the Panthers, as well as all 42 extra-point tries. He was also in perfect in six attempts from 50+ yards, and ranked second in kickoff effectiveness, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Based on his ’13 success, I’d expect Gano’s new deal to pay him something in the neighborhood of $2-3MM per year.

Gano’s signing means one fewer option on the market for teams on the lookout for kicking help. Steven Hauschka, Jay Feely, Phil Dawson, Adam Vinatieri, and Josh Brown are among the other potential free agents who will hit the open market on March 11 if they haven’t re-signed with their respective clubs.