With less than two weeks from the season opener for the Carolina Panthers, who would've thought that they would be re-evaluating the kicker position?
Carolina found their guy in Graham Gano seven seasons ago, and they haven't looked back. Gano signed a four-year, $17 million contract before last season began, and the Panthers had their franchise kicker locked up. But, the sudden emergence of Joey Slye has created some animosity between Gano and the franchise.
Gano has been dealing with a left knee injury, and Slye has been taking full advantage of the opportunity. Slye has played in all three preseason games so far, and he hasn't missed a field goal or extra point attempt. He's hit two field goals over 50 yards and he's gaining support from everyone around him.
Gano still will be the starting kicker if healthy, but there seems to be some tension between him and the organization. He had a really odd and difficult-to-read comment after being asked by reporters on Monday if he'll play in the final preseason game.
Although this situation could be nothing, and the Panthers will likely move forward with Gano -- it's worth looking into. The only way that Carolina would get rid of Gano would be through a trade. The Chicago Bears are a team that desperately needs a kicker, so that's a possibility. But, Ron Rivera is smart enough to not let go of his reliable starting kicker and replace him with a 23 year old kid that played well in the preseason.
The Panthers could go the alternative route of using Slye as trade bait, and potentially luring in a team like Chicago. Carolina likely won't keep two kickers on the roster, and Slye could get picked up by any other team with no compensation if he was placed on the practice squad.
Therefore, this game on Thursday could be really important for the future of Slye and the future of the Panthers. No matter what happens going forward, it's really important to try and give Slye one final chance to prove his worth.