NFL: Panthers may cut Mare

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 12, 2011

By Steve Reed
Associated Press
CHARLOTTE — Olindo Mare’s future in Carolina may be in doubt.
Coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers are considering bringing in kickers for workouts Tuesday after veteran Olindo Mare missed another big field goal in Carolina’s 31-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
With the Panthers trailing 24-23, Mare hooked a 36-yard field goal wide left with 5:16 left in the game. Two plays later Matt Ryan connected with rookie wide receiver Julio Jones on a 75-yard touchdown pass and the Falcons went on to erase beat the Panthers after erasing a 16-point halftime deficit.
It was Mare’s second big miss of the season.
He also missed a 31-yard field goal in the closing seconds against Minnesota that would have sent the game into overtime.
“The timing of the misses are about as bad as they get, obviously,” Rivera said. “We’ve got to think this through and go through the process, and make sure we make good decisions.”
The Panthers (4-9) gave Mare a four-year, $12 million contract — including a guaranteed $4 million signing bonus — to replace veteran John Kasay, who had been with the team since its expansion season in 1995.
If the Panthers cut Mare would count $3 million against next year’s salary cap, the remaining portion of his prorated signing bonus.
At this point it’s unclear who’ll kick against Houston on Sunday.
Among the more notable kickers available are Jeff Reed, a Charlotte native, and ex-Panthers Shayne Graham and Rhys Lloyd. The Panthers had undrafted rookie Adi Kunalic from Nebraska in training camp but cut him before the season.
The Panthers signed Mare to give them a kicker who could handle field goals and kickoffs — thus saving a roster spot — something they didn’t have with Kasay.
Mare has done well on kickoffs and ranks second in the league with 44 touchbacks, but he’s near the bottom in the league in field goal accuracy converting 76 percent (16 of 25).
Kasay, who was signed by New Orleans after being released by Carolina, has converted 83.9 percent (26 of 31) of his field goals.
However, Rivera said Monday he has no regrets about cutting Kasay, now 42.
“The reason we did it is we were looking for a two-for-one,” Rivera said. “We wanted to have one guy that was going to help us the kick ball off and kick field goals, and gain that spot back on the roster. We also wondered how long (Kasay) would have played, how much further down the road would he have gone.”
Rivera said the Panthers had thought about going after a younger kicker after making the decision to release Kasay.
But at the time he said there weren’t any good young kickers available.
“At some point, you’d like to believe it’s going to get worked out and he’s going to kick them and make them,” Rivera said. “That’s what he was brought here to do. So hopefully we’ll get that done.”