CHARLOTTE – Unsure of where the wind would take him this offseason, Graham Gano was one of the few veteran Panthers who completely cleared out his locker a day after the 2017 season ended in New Orleans.
Now he'll have to bring all his stuff back to Bank of America Stadium.
Carolina's kicker for the past six seasons signed a four-year contract Tuesday afternoon, just ahead of the league's 4 p.m. franchise tag deadline. The Panthers could have tagged Gano, who was a pending unrestricted free agent, if the sides hadn't reached an agreement before the deadline.
"We've been excited to see what was going to happen. I just spent a lot of time with my family, playing with my kids at home, trying not to really think about it too much," Gano said. "I've got a great agent and I knew things would work themselves out.
"(I'm) definitely excited to be able to move back into the locker and call this home for four more years."
The new deal marks quite a turnaround for Gano. After a down year in 2016, when he made only 30 of his 38 field goal attempts, the Panthers used a seventh-round draft pick on kicker Harrison Butker. But Gano held off the rookie, and Butker ended up spending his first year with Kansas City.
Gano, 30, hit an NFL-best and team-record 96.7 percent (29-of-30) of his field goal attempts in 2017 en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance. He also turned a league-leading 84.8 percent of his kickoffs into touchbacks.
"I don't know if I've seen a kicker have a better season than he had last year," general manager Marty Hurney said. "He missed one kick. That's pretty special.
"He's a very good kicker and we rewarded him for his production over not only last year but since he's been here."
Since joining the Panthers midway through the 2012 season, Gano has made 85.3 percent (151-of-177) of his field goal attempts, and his 670 points rank eighth in the NFL.