Yes, the Panthers have signed a free agent. Yes, he’s the kicker.
And, yes, the Panthers likely at least considered using the franchise tag on Gano.
The fact that the deal reportedly is worth $12.4 million over four years proves that the Panthers value him in the same range as the franchise tag for kickers, which was $2.977 million in 2013.
Though few regard kickers or punters as franchise players, the one-year rate for specialists has made it an attractive designation in recent years. In 2013, the Colts tagged punter Pat McAfee. The year before, five kickers were tagged: Mike Nugent, Phil Dawson, Matt Prater, Josh Scobee, and Connor Barth.
Signing Gano frees up the tag for use on someone else — like defensive end Greg Hardy. And while Hardy is much more valuable to the overall team efforts, using the tag on Gano would have been a lot cheaper.