We are less than one week from free agency, and one free agent we have not heard thing one about is kicker Phil Dawson. The San Francisco 49ers kicker put together a fantastic 2013 campaign while working on a 1-year, $2.35 million contract.
The market for kickers is not a simple one. It's one position where age is not quite as significant as it is for most other positions. Some teams are willing to invest heavily in kickers, others are fine having a revolving door at the position. The 49ers brought in Dawson after getting two years out of David Akers. Last year featured a stronger draft class of kickers, so whatever the 49ers do, it would likely involve free agency (whether it be Dawson, or a new kicker).
We've seen four notable kicker contract situations resolved to one degree or another. This offseason, per Jason from Over the Cap, we've seen four kickers get deals with an average per year exceeding $3 million. Those kickers are Robbie Gould (Bears), Nick Folk (Jets), Dan Bailey (Cowboys) and Graham Gano (Panthers). It is worth noting that only Folk's deal would have a 2014 cap hit exceeding $3 million, and that is because he was franchised.
Phil Dawson will be 39 through the 2014 season. For comparison's sake, Gould will be 32, Gano will be 27, Folk will be 29, and Bailey will be 26. Dawson is not going to get the four year deals Gano and Gould got, and he certainly won't get the six year deal that Bailey got (gotta love Jerry Jones!). The 49ers were also not going to franchise Dawson because he has already been franchised twice in his career. A third tag would require a tender matching that of a quarterback.
My guess is the 49ers work out a deal with Dawson somewhat similar to what he earned last season. There is the usual random kickers on the market, but I think the 49ers do what they can to bring him back. Given the boost in cap room, I could see them giving him a modest raise, but I have to think any deal would still be for less than $3 million. I could see another one-year deal somewhere between $2.5 million and $2.75 million. He's earned a raise.