CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers have decided to keep Joey Slye as their kicker and release veteran Graham Gano, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Gano took over as the team’s kicker in 2012 and spent seven seasons handling field goals and kickoffs for the Panthers. But the 33-year-old Gano sustained a knee injury last offseason and was placed on injured reserve, opening the door for Slye.
An undrafted rookie, Slye was essentially brought in as a stopgap while Gano recovered but impressed coaches with his strong leg. He was 25 of 32 on field goals (78.1%) last season, including 8 of 11 from 50 yards or beyond in 16 games.
Gano has been more accurate over the course of his career than Slye, making 82% of his field goals. However, the salary cap played a major role in the decision.
Gano had two years left on a four-year, $17 million contract and was set to count $4.3 million under the 2020 salary cap and another $5.2 million under next year’s cap. By comparison, Slye will make $675,000 this year.
By releasing Gano the Panthers will have to absorb $4.5 million in dead money under the salary cap over the next two seasons.