The franchise tag is rarely (if ever) used on a kicker, but that’s what the Carolina Panthers are set to do with Graham Gano.
News of franchise tags this NFL offseason have centered on Le’Veon Bell, Jarvis Landry and Case Keenum, but in February Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano surfaced as a candidate for such a tag. Now with the tag deadline coming on Tuesday afternoon, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the Panthers will indeed place the franchise tag on Gano if a long-term deal can’t be reached.
Gano went 29-for-30 on field goals (a league-best 96.7 percent) and 34-for-37 on extra points last season, with notable reduction in attempts from 50-plus yards (0-for-1) after going 6-for-13 from that range over the previous three seasons. Over those aforementioned prior three seasons, Gano missed a total of 20 field goals.
The franchise tag on Gano will cost the Panther around $4.9 million this year. They are choosing between Gano and free agent guard Andrew Norwell to give the tag to. Norwell is one of the best at his position, with three straight seasons in the top-12 of Pro Football Focus’ grades, while you’d take a while to get to Gano when thinking of the league’s best kickers.
Former Panthers general manager David Gettleman has taken over the same post with the New York Giants, and they reportedly have interest in Gano as an upgrade over 2017 incumbent Aldrick Rosas. With that as an added point, Carolina wants to keep Gano from hitting the free agent market.
Obviously and especially in close games, special teams plays a key role in winning and losing. Gano is only one season removed from making less than 80 percent of his field goals (30-for-38 in 2016), and three straight seasons with at least six missed field goals toeing that thin line between wins and losses. Gano’s rebound in 2017 points to simply not being allowed to attempt as many longer field goals, and the requisite better success rate.