The 30 year old kicker enters the 2017 season just recovering from a broken bone in his right foot or what is referred to as a “ballerina injury”, and on the final year of his contract.
Gano finished his 2016 season with his lowest kicking percentage since becoming a Carolina Panther at 78.9% (30 of 38), and his second lowest extra point percentage in his career at 91.2% (31 of 34).
Gano has had a career average of about 83.1% in field goal tries, and a 96.2% extra points as a Carolina Panther. Keeping the Panthers ranked right around 9th in the league for his time as the kicker.
Despite that the Panthers decided to go into the 2017 NFL Draft, and proceed to take a kicker for the first time in team history to compete with Gano. While Gano’s numbers have been about league average over his time as kicker for the Panthers.
The problem hasn’t been so much his percentages, but the timing of some of his missed kicks. Coming at crucial points of games. Missing half of his kicks from more than 50+ yards and averaging about 3 misses for the last 3 seasons from 40+ yards.
- 2014: 40 to 49 yards – 8 of 11 | 50+ yards – 1 of 3
- 2015: 40 to 49 yards – 13 of 16 | 50+ yards – 2 of 4
- 2016: 40 to 49 yards – 14 of 17 | 50+ yards – 3 of 6
While Gano can still make it through Training Camp as the Panthers kicker in 2017 if he can beat out the rookie Harrison Butker. The problem may extend past Gano as a kicker, and to his contract.
Gano currently accounts for $4 million of the 2017 cap. If the Panthers moved on from Gano they could free up $3,250,000 million for the 2017 salary cap.
With the number of players due contracts in the 2018 off-season, and the current outlook looking to land around roughly $24 million right now (before cuts or other moves). Gettleman will have to weigh if keeping Gano over the young rookie is worth it, and worth risking that chunk of cap for 2018.
If the Panthers cut Gano this off-season they can try to stash that $3.25 million on top of what they already have in 2017, and try to rollover that number into the 2018 off-season.
The Panthers could decide to cut both Gano and Oher before the 2017 season. If they’re the only players cut in 2017 before or during the season, the Panthers 2018 salary cap would raise from the rough estimated $24 million in 2018 to a rough estimated starting cap of $37 million in 2018 (before any new contracts are signed).
Which includes a possible use of $5 million in emergencies in 2017, rollover of Gano ($3.25M) plus Oher’s ($4.5M) release in 2017, Oher’s ($5.3M) addition in 2018, and a $10 million cap jump in 2018.
This would go a little ways towards helping re-sign players like Davis, Turner, Norwell, Star, and extending Olsen.
While Gano’s future is likely to be decided in the 2017 season. The ramifications of the decision to cut or keep Gano could be felt in the 2018 salary cap, and off-season moves.