Kickers are not the players that are the face of the team, their jerseys are scarce on game days, they usually don't have the biggest plays and they only come out for brief moments during the game. However, they are typically the top scorers on their team, their extra points and field goals can be difference-makers in the game and are part of what makes a team successful.
Taking everything into consideration, just how valuable is a kicker and how does that value translate into actual money?
The New York Giants made it clear how valuable they think their kicker Graham Gano is, signing him to a three-year extension for $16.5 million. The real kicker (pun intended) is that around $11.3 million of the deal is fully guaranteed, with nearly $2 million more in injury guarantees, per ESPN.
So was this a good decision? It's the question of the day between NFL fans and media. So let's break it down.
Gano has spent three years calling MetLife home and in that time has made 89 of 97 field goal attempts, a 91.8 percent accuracy and the best percentage in franchise history (min. 50 attempts). Since joining the Giants in 2020, he has made 94.6 percent of his attempted extra points, only missing four.
He's made 20 field goals over 50 yards, 11 more than the former franchise record-holder.
In his career, he has made 313 of 370 field goals made, an 84.8% accuracy. He was selected to one Pro Bowl, when he was with the Carolina Panthers in 2018.
Gano was the top scorer on the Giants in 2022 by far, scoring 119 points, ahead of running back Saquon Barkley who accounted for 62 points. He was among the top kickers last year in field goals made and had the eighth-highest field goal percentage in the league (min. 20 attempts).
He has the stats to back up the huge deal and the durability (he has yet to miss a game while in New York). But will that hold true for the next three seasons?
Gano is 36 years old, and yes, 30 is the new 20, but in football years, he's old. Three more years puts him just under 40 when the extension ends.
There have certainly been kickers who stick around in their late 30s and early 40s. Phil Dawson played at 43, former Giant John Carney was 46 at his oldest in the league and Adam Vinatieri, one of the best kickers of all time, played until he was just under 47.
Kickers do have the most longevity in the NFL, with an average career length of 4.87 years, according to Statista. Due to the nature of the position, injuries are rare for kickers, which helps the Giants' case for banking on Gano for the near future.
We know it is possible to play on the older side, but a three-year contract is still a risky move with a player entering what could be the final years of their career.
At the end of the day, the NFL is a business, which means there is always the topic of money. Ahead of the extension, the Giants had $5,175,986 of salary cap space, the fourth lowest in the league (per Over The Cap). Looking into 2024, they have $58,680,431 in cap space, 11th most in the league for next year.
The move does free up cap space for the Giants, which is one bonus.
Next season, talks between the Giants and Barkley will continue, as the running back looks to pen a big deal with Big Blue. He will be looking for a hefty check, so the Giants had to take their future signings into consideration while giving Gano his contract.
In conclusion: It's complicated, but the Giants should have pushed to keep Gano, just with less on the line. Solid, reliable kickers are hard to come by, so I can appreciate their urgency of solidifying someone they can count on.