Former Virginia Tech kicker Joey Slye, who kicked a 59-yard field goal in Thursday night’s preseason finale against Pittsburgh and was 3-for-3 on kicks of 50-plus yards during the exhibition season, will open the season as Carolina’s kicker.
Gano did not kick in any of the four preseason games after developing soreness in his plant leg similar to what he experienced last season. He has not kicked at all since early in training camp.
He is in the second year of a four-year, $17 million deal and is scheduled to count $3,387,500 against the 2019 salary cap.
“It always comes with frustration when it comes to dealing with injuries,” Gano said after Thursday’s game. “I love playing football. I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Slye was signed during training camp to give Gano time to rest his leg, but it never improved, prompting Friday’s move.
“Both Graham and the team were optimistic throughout the process that this leg would improve enough to allow him to kick,” general manager Marty Hurney said. “Unfortunately, Graham still had pain in his plant leg each time he tried to resume kicking.
“These are tough decisions and we discussed all options, but ultimately we decided to place Graham on injured reserve today.”
The Panthers also cut 2015 fifth-round pick Cameron Artis-Payne, leaving the backup running back spot to Christian McCaffrey to fifth-round pick Jordan Scarlett. Undrafted free agent Elijah Holyfield and Reggie Bonnafon also could be in the mix if they survive final cuts on Saturday.
There was speculation that Gano could be placed on IR after the final 53-man roster was set, meaning he could return after at least eight games. Friday’s decision ended that.
The Panthers also cut quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who was Cam Newton’s backup a year ago but dropped to fourth on the depth chart behind Newton, Kyle Allen and third-round pick Will Grier this past offseason.
Carolina’s roster now is at 66 players, meaning 13 other players must be cut by 4 p.m. on Saturday.