Maybe now the boos will stop for Olindo Mare.
A year after releasing popular placekicker John Kasay and signing Mare as his replacement, the Carolina Panthers have given Mare the boot, as well.
The Panthers released Mare and veteran punter Nick Harris on Monday, opting for younger, stronger-legged alternatives. Panthers general manager Marty Hurney, criticized by some for cutting ties with Kasay, said former CFL star Justin Medlock and rookie punter Brad Nortman won the jobs with strong preseasons.
“We were very pleased with all four of those guys,” Hurney said. “With Brad and Justin, we had two young kickers with extremely strong legs who had very good training camps, and just thought performed very well and had bright futures.”
The moves were among several the Panthers made Monday, the deadline for paring rosters from 90 to 75 players. But Mare, 39, was by far the biggest name cut.
Mare will count $3.1 million against the Panthers’ salary cap this year, while Medlock is set to make the minimum $390,000.
When the Panthers signed Mare to a four-year, $12 million deal last summer after the lockout ended, Hurney said it was done to free a roster spot.
Kasay, an original Panther, did not kick off his last few seasons in Charlotte, forcing the Panthers to carry a second kicker as a kickoff specialist. Mare handled both kickoffs and placements.
But Mare fell out of favor by missing a pair of short, fourth-quarter field goals in close losses at home to Minnesota and Atlanta. He was booed at Bank of America Stadium throughout much of the preseason – including the team’s FanFest – and consistently came up short on field goals of 50 yards or longer at training camp.
As he began his 16th NFL training camp earlier this month, Mare said he hoped his experience – he has 350 career field goals – would be considered.
“I don’t know what coach isn’t looking for younger, better, bigger, stronger. That’s their job,” Mare said in Spartanburg. “But there is something to be said (for) having made 300 or 400 field goals. It’s worth something I would hope.”
Medlock, 28, has attempted only two regular-season field goals in the NFL – in his lone game for Kansas City in 2007 after the Chiefs drafted him in the fifth round. The left-footed Medlock flourished during three seasons in Canada, making 49 of 55 field goal tries last year, with a long of 57 yards.
“I think he showed his leg strength up there,” Hurney said. “I think Justin’s got a chance to make the long field goals.”
Medlock is 3-for-3 on field goals in exhibition games, although his short kickoff against Houston led to a 90-yard touchdown return by Trindon Holliday. Mare also was 3-for-3 in the exhibitions, but fared worse at camp.
Hurney also praised the big leg of Nortman, drafted in the sixth round out of Wisconsin after the Panthers cut Jason Baker during the offseason. Nortman has averaged 45.7 yards on six punts this preseason, including a 57-yarder from the end zone against the Texans that forced a fair catch.
“We made this decision because we felt very good about Nortman and Medlock both,” Hurney said. “Braley showed even in the first preseason game backed up, he can get off a 55-yard or a 57-yarder and get you out of trouble.”