Carolina Panthers release longtime kicker Graham Gano

Carolina Panthers

Graham Gano #9 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates kicking the game winning field goal with teammate Jonathan Stewart #28 of the Carolina Panthers, defeating the Indianapolis Colts 29-26 in overtime at Bank of America Stadium on November 2, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The 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.

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