Graham Gano is the forgotten man in Carolina, unusual for a Pro Bowl kicker that has spent the past eight seasons with the Panthers. Gano may not even open the season with Carolina, after having to compete for his job thanks to the emergence of Joey Slye. While Slye bombed 50-yard field goals for the Panthers, Gano was in the training facility rehabbing a leg injury that cost him the 2019 season. After having leg issues the past two years, Panthers special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn has been encouraged by Gano's progress.
"I get updates from our trainer. He's been able to go into the facility with the ruling of the injured players (being) able to go in, so he's been back in there and he's been kicking well," Blackburn said, via Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer. "I've been getting updates from Kevin (King, Carolina's head athletic trainer), and everything's been going well. Rehab's been going really, really well and I guess he kicked today."
Gano made the Pro Bowl in 2017 for the Panthers, hitting 29 of 30 field goals and leading the league with a 96.7% conversion rate. He's second on Carolina's all-time scoring list with 742 points and the most accurate kicker in franchise history, converting 85.5% of his attempts (minimum 100 attempts).
A fractured femur suffered during a practice in 2018 placed Gano on injured reserve and the former Pro Bowl kicker suffered the same complications from the injury last year in training camp, leading to an injured reserve stint again. Slye took over the kicking duties and finished 25 of 32 field goals (78.1%) while converting 31 of 35 extra points (88.6%) in his rookie year.
While Slye wasn't great, he appears to have the edge in the Panthers' kicking competition. Gano has a cap number of $4,337,500 and the Panthers can save $1,262,500 if they release him. Slye, on the other hand, makes just $675,000.
Gano will have to kick near his Pro Bowl level again in order to retain his job. Maybe a healthy leg is the trick.