Johnny Hekker did not last long on the open market. The longtime Rams punter reached an agreement with the Panthers on Friday, according to a team announcement.
The Rams cut Hekker after the sides’ 10-season run together. They nearly dropped Hekker before the season, with the All-Pro specialist’s contract at the root of the separation. It is unlikely Hekker’s Panthers deal will match his most recent L.A. pact, one the team shortened before last season. But Hekker is one of the most accomplished punters in NFL history and, at 32, should be able to keep going for a while.
Hekker is one of just two punters, along with Shane Lechler, to have been named a first-team All-Pro four times. Hekker’s last such season came in 2017, but he landed on the All-Pro second team during the Rams’ Super Bowl LIII-qualifying season. The Oregon State product shined in that defensive struggle against the Patriots as well.
Hekker’s 44.2 yards-per-punt figure in 2021 marked a career-low average; his 45.6 number from 2020 was his previous low. The Panthers will give him a chance to get back on track.
Carolina’s primary punter from last season, ex-Jet Lac Edwards, is a free agent. In 10 Panthers games last season, Edwards averaged 47.9 yards per boot. Carolina used three punters last season; Hekker has never missed a game as a pro.