Image Credit: (Jim Dedmon/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-mullick-354076184/
Zane Gonzalez just can’t catch a break in the NFL. Through his NFL Career it has been a rocky road. Earlier in his career he struggled in pressure as a Cleveland Brown. When he became an Arizona Cardinals he performed well and was looking like he was going to be their kicker long term. Unfortunately he suffered a back injury which not only ended his season, but his tenure in Arizona. He jumped on and off the Detroit Lions, but got another opportunity with the Carolina Panthers. Unfortunately during warmups Gonzalez suffered a quad injury in warmups which took him out for the rest of the season. He was expected to yet again be the kicker for the 2022 season, but he yet again suffered a severe groin injury. It is crazy that he yet again injured himself yet again during warmups. In fact there is footage of that injury that I will show down below.
Unfortunately this injury is going to take him out of the season, which absolutely sucks. I wish him a speedy recovery from his injury and can perform well when he is back on the field. This injury is a problem and it means that the Carolina Panthers will need to bring in a new kicker and there are a few options for the Panthers to replace him.
5. Tristan Vizcaino
It is looking more likely than not that Nick Folk will once again be the kicker for the New England Patriots this season. This means that Vincaino will likely be a free agent once final cut day ends. Now, I have to say Vizcaino was not horrendous during the preseason. I could see the Panthers take a chance on him and bring him into the roster. Vizcaino will likely be motivated when the Patriots officially cut ties with him at the end of the preseason.
4. Austin Siebert/Riley Patterson
The Panthers could wait and see in regards to how the Detroit Lions kicking battle will end up and make a move on either of them. The Panthers will have a lot of footage as keep in mind that the Lions are on hard knocks. The Panthers will absolutely do their homework on both kickers and when final cut day hits it would not shock me if the Panthers bring either in for a workout.
3. Liam Hajrullahu
Definitely have to put Hajrullahu on the list as Carolina brought him in when Zane Gonzalez suffered his injury last year. He was solid for the team last year making 3 of 4 field goals and 3 of 3 PAT’s. Liam Hajrullahu recently lost a kicking battle with Brett Maher. On a side note, I am still shocked that Brett Maher was brought back as the Dallas Cowboys kicker as his first stin was a disappointment. I think that history could repeat itself again as Hajrullahu could yet again replace an injured Gonzalez. With his connections in Carolina, with the coaching staff and having a good relationship with players in the locker room, it is definitely a possibility he kicks for the Carolina Panthers yet again.
2. Brian Johnson
This is a sleeper signing that I absolutely see happening in Carolina. It is being reported that the Panthers have already been working out Johnson. Which is a sign that the interest is there and from last year Johnson was solid. During the 2021 season with Washington and New Orleans he actually kicked a total of 10 of 10 field goals and 9 of 13 of his PAT’s. He is worth a shot giving him another opportunity. Johnson is 23 years old and if he impresses he could be a part of this organization long term.
1. Eddy Piniero
With Piniero losing the kicking job to Greg Zuerlein with the New York Jets, he was a part of the 2nd round of cuts for the New York Jets. But during his time in the NFL, Piniero has shown flashes. In Chicago he did a decent job as the kicker before he got injured. He was signed in the 2021 season by the Jets to finish the year and he was automatic as he made all of his field goals and PAT’s at the end of the 2021 NFL Season. With his experience, bringing him in could be a no brainer move for Carolina that would fill a much needed position on special teams.