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Friday, February 28, 2014
Graham Gano signs 4-year deal

By David Newton

The Carolina Panthers signed kicker Graham Gano to a four-year contract Friday.

The deal is worth $12.4 million, according to league sources. Gano was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 11.

Gano became a big weapon for the Panthers in 2013. His 77.8 touchback rate on kickoffs was the highest in the league since 1994. He also was successful on 24 of 27 field goal attempts, and he made all six of his tries from at least 50 yards.

"I feel like I really found my kicking form, and now I'm just going to try to keep on improving," Gano told the club's website. "I'm very excited for my family. This is the place I've wanted to be all along. I love this organization and love our fans. I feel very blessed and fortunate."

Gano is most proud of his touchback rate, which played a role in the Panthers' defense ranking second in the league.

"Yeah, our defensive coordinator [Sean McDermott] told me after the season the touchbacks definitely helped the defense out a lot,'' Gano said. "A lot of the leaders on defense told me how excited they were to get on the field with the opponent on the 20. Just to eliminate the opportunity to score a touchdown with the touchback is pretty big.''

Coach Ron Rivera was pleased the team was able to get a deal done with Gano, the first of Carolina's 21 unrestricted free agents to re-sign.

"The special teams unit was a large part of our success last year and we are excited to keep Graham as a part of our team," Rivera said. "Graham has shown range and accuracy in his field goal kicking, and his strong leg has been a weapon for us on kickoffs."

Gano joined the Panthers in November 2012 after spending his first three-plus seasons with the Washington Redskins. Consistency was his biggest issue until this past season.