It is time to move on to the offensive side of the ball. Where better to start than at the kicker position right? Many of us expected San Francisco to spend a 7th round pick on a kicker, but they didn't.
The 49ers do have two in-house candidates to fill the kicking vacancy. Each comes with their own issues. Joe Nedney is getting up there in age and was injured last season. Jeff Reed has character issues that many people believe should preclude his return to the 49ers in 2011.
Lucky for us, the 49ers have ample candidates to look at when free agency starts.
Vincent's Note: Starting with my next post tomorrow I am going to assume that this off-season will be run under the new rules indicated in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
Free Agents Under Any System
David Akers, Philadelphia Eagles
2010 Stats: 32/38 Field Goals, 47/47 PAT, 139 Points, 82.4% Career FG Kicker
Analysis: Philadelphia had initially placed the transition tag on Akers, but most people believe they will drop it due to them drafting Alex Henery so early in April's draft. Look for the Eagles to let him walk.
This would be a great pick up for San Francisco. Akers has had a border line hall-of-fame career for Philadelphia and still has some juice left in those legs. You would be looking at a little more money for Akers than the in-house candidates, but it may be worth it.
Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons
2010 Stats: 28/31 Field Goals, 44/44 PAT, 128 Points, 82.8 Career FG Kicker
Analysis: Playing half your games indoors does help your statistics as a kicker. That said, Matt Bryant was a pretty solid kicker for both the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before joining Atlanta.
He would be another solid option for San Francisco if they decide to go the veteran route. Still, how many of us can get over his "performance" in the 49ers last playoff victory?
Phil Dawson, Cleveland Browns
2010 Stats: 23/28 Field Goals, 28/28 PAT, 97 Points, 82.1 Career FG Kicker
Analysis: Dawson is getting up there in age, and doesn't have the leg necessary to fit in San Francisco; this is also the reason why Cleveland may think about letting him walk after 12 seasons.
Dawson was just over 33 percent from over 40 yards last season, not good.
Kai Forbath, UCLA Bruins (Rookie)
Career College Stats: 85/101 Field Goals, 102/104 PAT, 84.2 Career FG Kicker
Analysis: I wouldn't have minded the 49ers taking Forbath in the 7th round, now they have an opportunity to get him for free. He is an extremely accurate kicker with a strong leg. Any team that brings Forbath in won't be doing so to create training camp competition, he is the real deal and will get a long look in pre-season.
Shayne Graham, New England Patriots
2010 Stats: 12/12 Field Goals, 35/37 PAT, 71 Points, 86.0 Career FG Kicker
Analysis: One of the most accurate field goal kicker of our time, Graham has been dogged by less than stellar playoff performances. I personally believe he would be the best short term answer for the 49ers. He has made 58 or 78 possible field goal attempts of over 40 yards, not too bad.
You would be looking at Graham costing about as much as Nedney in 2011, but his contract would be a little longer term.
Ryan Longwell, Minnesota Vikings
2010 Stats: 17/18 Field Goals, 30/31 PAT, 81 Points.
Analysis: Longwell still has a lot left in the tank and would be a nice option for San Francisco moving forward. You are looking at a kicker that will be productive in the NFL for probably the next half decade.
His accuracy went up moving indoors from Green Bay to Minnesota; but, he has always been an extremely accurate kicker. Additionally, Longwell is one of the most accurate kickers from beyond 50 yards.
Olindo Mare, Seattle Seahawks
2010 Stats: 25/30 Field Goals, 31/31 PAT, 106 Points
Analysis: After struggling big time in 2006 and 2007, Mare has picked it back up again over the last couple of seasons. But, his leg isn't what it used to be and that will be a problem in San Francisco. I would steer clear of him.
Jeff Reed, San Francisco 49ers
2010 Stats: 24/34 Field Goals, 32/32 PAT, 104 Points
Analysis: I was extremely surprised that Reed was released by Pittsburgh after serving them well for so many seasons. That said, there are character issues that he brought to San Francisco; some people are unwilling to look past that in regards to a kicker. I am not one of those people. I think that Reed adds a lot to whatever team he plays for.
The 49ers have to seriously consider Reed an option for 2011.
Possible Free Agents Under New 2011 Free Agent Rules: Each player will have accrued enough NFL experience to hit the open market if a new CBA is agreed to. I will indicate tender offers as they relate to each player below. Tender offers mean that their current team offered some sort of restricted free agent tender. This tender means that the team signing each player would have to give up what was tendered.
Connor Barth, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2010 Stats: 23/28 Field Goals, 36/36 PAT, 105 Points
Contract Situation: Is going to be a restricted free agent regardless of a new collective bargaining agreement.
Analysis: I really like Barth, but it is going to be incredibly hard to pry him away from Tampa Bay. They have a lot of money to spend, so doling out a couple million to a kicker wont be that big of a deal.
Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
2010 Stats: 22/28 Field Goals, 46/46 PAT, 112 Points, 78.1 Career FG percentage
Contract Situation: Green Bay extended a 2nd round tender to Crosby, so if he is a restricted free agent that is what the compensation will cost. However, it is extremely likely he will be restricted given his four years of service time.
Analysis: Not the most accurate kicker in the world, Crosby does have a leg that wont quit. I think he would be a good fit for San Francisco, but acquiring him is going to be extremely difficult. Green Bay is said to have made him a top priority this off-season.
Overall Analysis: The 49ers seem to have a myriad of external options when it comes to the kicker position, however, their internal options may be just as good. Barring San Francisco doling out a lot of money for a kicker, which hasn't been their MO; you are looking at them having a cheap veteran heading into the 2011 season.
Jeff Reed and Joe Nedney are both solid options and San Francisco will probably use Fabrizio Scaccia as training camp competition. If I had my druthers, San Francisco would sign Kai Forbath to compete with Reed/Nedney and possibly Scaccia.
Either way, don't expect the 49ers to be incredibly active in this market unless they decide to go in a completely different direction than Nedney/Reed.