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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Why the 49ers split with K Robbie Gould makes sense for both sides

Rohan Chakravarthi
Mar 4, 2023 at 12:15 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers received clarity on one of their key free agents heading into the offseason, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Saturday that kicker Robbie Gould is testing free agency and will not return to the team after six years in the Bay Area.

Gould, 40, had been a mainstay of the Kyle Shanahan regime at kicker, having arguably his two best seasons when arriving in 2017 and 2018 before turning into an extremely consistent option in the postseason.

However, the move doesn't come with much surprise, as general manager John Lynch acknowledged that the 49ers were looking at kickers at the combine while awaiting a decision from Gould.

"We're not done with that," general manager John Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area this week at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Part of the whole Robbie situation is we got to do our work here, and you want to give Robbie as much time to pivot as possible. But we have to do our evaluations here."

Gould is entering free agency after his four-year, $19 million extension concluded at the end of the 2022 season, and will look for a new home for the first time in six years.

Here's why the move makes sense for both the 49ers and Gould, despite his significant postseason success.

Why it makes sense for SF

While Gould has been a perfect 29/29 on field goals in the postseason, which is the most in playoff history, the 49ers kicker has seen a decline in play over the past four seasons, converting just 81.7% of his opportunities since 2019, while his range has diminished as well as his age increases.

Moreover, Gould has struggled with touchbacks, as only 43.8% of his kickoffs end in the back of the endzone, which has contributed to some of San Francisco's special team woes over that stretch.

However, the biggest reason it makes sense? Financials.

The 49ers franchise-tagged Gould in 2019 to keep him in San Francisco before rewarding him with the four-year, $19 million extension, making him one of the highest-paid kickers over that period of time.

With the 49ers in a tight spot with their salary cap, it makes sense to move on and find a cheaper, cost-controlled option in the NFL Draft, allowing the team to utilize the extra cap space elsewhere to fill the roster.

His playoff value certainly makes it a tough choice, given the rarity of such composure, but San Francisco may not have a better option than to move on for a cheaper option with their current financial situation.

Gould will likely command a contract similar to the one he just completed with the 49ers, given his bargaining chip of the $5 million franchise tag, which is likely too costly if he were to return.

Why it makes sense for Gould

While Gould has certainly enjoyed an elite level of success with the 49ers, specifically in the playoffs, he has also been away from his family during this portion of his career, as his wife and children live in Chicago, which the kicker revealed during the pandemic.

With his career coming closer to an end, and with the option of hitting the open market, Gould could very well look to return closer to home, making it more feasible to be around his family.

The Chicago Bears could make sense with a reunion, as Gould could be an important veteran piece as the team looks to take the next step following a poor year.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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