The San Francisco 49ers made a significant roster move on Saturday, trading punter Andy Lee to the Cleveland Browns for what is being reported as a seventh round pick. The move is a "whoah" moment given that he was the longest-tenured 49er, but it was far from shocking. Some kind of move was in the cards as soon as the team drafted Bradley Pinion this past May. In reality, the move was in the cards before that as the 49ers obviously were pondering the decision.
The decision was purely business, as is often the case in the NFL. Lee was coming off a less than stellar year, and while he is still a very solid punter, the team has salary cap commitments to figure out. By trading Lee, the 49ers will save $1,550,000 in 2015, and carry $1 million in dead money. Pinion is looking at a cap number of $483,550. That means the 49ers are saving a shade over $1 million by making this move.
I am disappointed to see the end of the Andy Lee era, but any shock I had over this was sorted out shortly after the NFL Draft. Trent Baalke said there would be a competition for the punter job, but there was going to be no competition. Short of Pinion coming in and shanking every single punt in OTAs, it was his job to lose.
Asked Andy Lee's agent if client requested a trade. He didn't answer directly. Said it was very amicable parting that worked for all parties— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) June 7, 2015
I would imagine Andy Lee requested either a trade or his release before training camp so he would have a chance to catch on somewhere else quickly. The Browns showed some positive signs last year, and might very well be a team on the rise. Of course, it is Cleveland, so who knows how it will all come crashing down.
As for the pick, given Lee's rising cap figure and age, it is not surprising the team will only get a seventh round pick for him. Even the best punters in the world have somewhat limited trade value. Such is the way of the world. I'm not entirely sure what I am going to do with my Andy Lee jersey. It joins my Alex Smith jersey on the sidelines while I figure out what's next. I certainly won't be purchasing jerseys for active players moving forward. If I buy another jersey (not particularly likely), I'm just sticking with retired players.