Carolina released 15-year NFL veteran kicker Olindo Mare on Monday just one year after giving him a four-year, $12 million contract. They also parted ways with punter Nick Harris, an 11-year NFL veteran who was signed as a free agent earlier this off-season.
Justin Medlock, a journeyman kicker who last played for the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, appears to have won the kicking job.
The Panthers went with rookie sixth-round draft pick Brad Nortman as their new punter.
"Both of those decisions at kicker were very difficult," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "In both situations we felt like we had two young kickers with strong legs who had very good training camps. So did Olindo and Nick, but we made a decision to go with the younger guys based on their performances."
The Panthers also placed cornerback Brandon Hogan on injured reserve for the second straight year after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last Friday.
Wide receiver David Gettis, who has missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury, was placed on the physically unable to perform list with a hamstring injury. Gettis was hoping to battle for the No. 3 receiver spot after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.
Gettis can be activated to the 53-man roster after the sixth week of the season.
The team also waived wide receivers Darvin Adams, Rico Wallace, Brenton Bersin and Michael Avila, running backs Josh Vaughan and Lyndon Rowells, tight end Greg Smith, guards Will Blackwell and Roger Allen, and defensive end Eric Norwood, a former fourth-round draft pick from South Carolina.
Mare had the unenviable task of replacing veteran kicker John Kasay, who was cut last season after spending all 16 years with the team.
Mare connected on 22 of 28 on field goals attempts last year but had two key misses in losses to Atlanta and Minnesota. With a chance to send the game into overtime he pushed a 31-yard field goal wide left in the closing seconds resulting in a 24-21 loss to the Vikings. A few weeks later he missed a 36-yarder against the Falcons in another late-game situation.
The Panthers still must pay Mare $3 million, the remaining portion of his signing bonus.
But Medlock, who also played in the CFL with Edmonton and Toronto, is a much cheaper alternative in terms of base salary. He's set to make the league minimum of $390,000. Mare's base salary would have been $2.1 million this year.
Mare's departure doesn't come as a surprise.
The kicking battle had been one of the most competitive in training camp and Medlock appeared to have edged ahead because of his ability to make longer field goals. Mare struggled on kicks around 50 yards out, while Medlock had plenty of leg to get it there.
The big question for the Panthers was if Medlock could handle the pressure of kicking in a game.
He was perfect during the preseason.
Medlock was drafted in the fifth round in 2007 by the Kansas City Chiefs and was 1 of 2 on his field goal attempts before being waived. He hasn't attempted a field goal in the league since. However, he's performed well in the CFL.
He earned a tryout with the Panthers after connecting on 49 of 55 field goals last season for the Tiger-Cats, including a 57-yarder.
"That was one of the big things that attracted us to Justin is he had a strong leg," Hurney said. "He was a highly touted kicker coming out of UCLA. But sometimes it takes kickers awhile to gain some experience. He went to Canada and really did a nice job there and we decided to bring him in."
Hurney said running back Jonathan Stewart will be listed as "day-to-day" after injuring his ankle during Sunday night's preseason game against the New York Jets. X-rays on the ankle were negative but it's unlikely Stewart will play in Thursday's preseason finale at Pittsburgh.