NFL News and Rumors

Panthers Officially Declare Winner of Kicker Competition

Devon Platana
The Carolina Panthers have announced who will be there starting kicker for the 2021 NFL season.
The Carolina Panthers have announced who will be there starting kicker for the 2021 NFL season. / Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Field goals were an issue for the Carolina Panthers in 2020 as the team converted on just 80.56% of their attempts — the 12th-worst percentage in the NFL. The Panthers hoped that third-year kicker Joey Syle would have improved over the offseason, however, that wasn't the case as he missed three of his attempts through the team's first two preseason games. This forced Carolina to trade for K Ryan Santoso from the New York Giants earlier this week to create some competition at the position.

Fast forward to Saturday and the Panthers have declared the winner of their kicker competition. Carolina announced that Slye was one of their roster cuts ahead of Tuesday's 53-man deadline, leaving Santoso as their starting going forward.

Carolina Panthers News

The deciding factor for Carolina's decision likely occurred during the team's 34-9 preseason finale victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday. Santoso made a total of five kicks (two extra point, three field goals) and was successful on each attempt. While Slye converted on his only extra point attempt, he missed a 49-yard field goal attempt.

It's going to be interesting to see how Santoso fairs as the Panthers kicker. As mentioned before, he hasn't played a regular-season game since he was a member of the Tennessee Titans in 2019. Even then, he strictly handled kickoff duties, averaging 59.9 yards on 17 kicks with a touchback rating of 52.9 percent.

The last time Santoso handled full-time field goal duties was when he played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the 2015 college football season. He finished that campaign by going a perfect 31-for-31 on extra point attempts while making 81.0 percent of his attempted field goals. Only time will tell if he can play like that on a weekly basis six years later.

After finishing third in the NFC South last season with a 5-11 record, things aren't expected to get better for Carolina in 2021. FanDuel Sportsbook is projecting the Panthers to finish at the bottom of their division at +1200 odds.

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