Did Joey Slye deserve a new deal with the Carolina Panthers?
By Dean Jones
Did Joey Slye deserve a new deal with the Carolina Panthers in 2021?
Joey Slye went into the offseason with plenty of doubts surrounding his future with the Carolina Panthers. The kicker has been inconsistent during the 2020 campaign and there were some who questioned whether it was best for all parties to move on from this particular arrangement.
However, the Carolina Panthers put a quick end to this speculation by penning Slye to a new contract immediately following the conclusion of their regular season. The financial terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, but that will be irrelevant to the player in all honesty.
Another chance is all he wanted.
It’s been a rough ride for Slye, whose stats don’t actually look that bad.
But that is only half the story.
Joey Slye faces a training camp fight with the Carolina Panthers.
The former Virginia Tech product missed some crucial kicks that would have made Carolina’s record look far different than the 5-11 they ended up with. Slye is still just two years into his NFL career and even though he’ll be part of the Panthers roster during training camp, it appears he will still have to fight for the kicking duties before competitive action rolls around.
Carolina also signed Lirim Hajrullahu to a contract extension after the Canadian player impressed as part of their practice squad during the final stages of the campaign. This will mean a kicking competition during the offseason and if Slye was not fully aware of the challenge awaiting him in 2021, this should put his status into perspective beyond all doubt.
What comes next will be largely down to Slye.
The Panthers placed a tremendous amount of faith in him by releasing veteran Graham Gano once he fully returned to health just before the 2020 season and this appears to be his last chance to forge a long-term career with the organization.
Slye ended the year with an 80.6 percent field goal success rate – up 2.5% from the 2019 campaign – with the majority of his misses coming from 50 yards or beyond.
That’s the primary reason Slye has been given a pass.
But it’s clear there is no more margin for error.
The No. 1 option currently will get all he can handle from Hajrullahu once OTAs and camp come around. This should increase the player’s urgency to improve in the weeks and months ahead. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that his time in Carolina is hanging by a thread.
This is just one problem facing the Panthers this offseason. So it’s nice for head coach Matt Rhule to get one boxed off early before heading off on what could be the shortest of breaks.
Kickers are scapegoats more often than not. That is just the nature of the beast.
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Slye goes into the 2021 preparation period with some short-term financial stability if nothing else. What comes next is going to be pivotal not only for the individual but also for the Panthers as they look to make strides next season and become a postseason contender once again.