The San Francisco 49ers have had three long snappers over the past 18 years. Brian Jennings held the role from 2000 to 2012. He was replaced by rookie Kevin McDermott in 2014. The 49ers then brought in Kyle Nelson prior to 2014 training camp, and he beat out McDermott.
Nelson had two prior stints with the team in the offseason workout program and training camp, but he held on for good in 2014. He has not earned a Pro Bowl nod, but has otherwise been very solid. Following his first year in the job, Nelson signed a four year contract extension that expires after this season.
Age: 31 (turns 32 on October 3)
Experience: 6 accrued seasons
Weight: 240 pounds
Entering the final season of a four-year contract extension signed in 2015. He is scheduled to earn $975,000 and a $25,000 workout bonus. His cap hit this season is $1.15 million.
Why he might improve in 2018
I don’t think he can really improve, so much as just maintain his current level of excellence. If a long snapper is mentioned during a football game, either he is involved in a trick play, or something has gone really wrong on a punt or field goal snap. We rarely hear Nelson mentioned, so suffice to say, he’s doing about as well as one could expect.
Why he might regress in 2018
Age is not really a big concern for the position, so really it’s whether or not he has some yips or other struggles pop up. It seems unlikely, but that would be what causes any issues.
Odds of making the roster
The 49ers have not signed or drafted a potential replacement, which suggests Nelson is not going anywhere for his final season. It is worth noting the team signed Nelson in July 2014 and he supplanted incumbent Kevin McDermott, so while he is a lock right now, roster moves could always change that.
The bigger question is whether or not the 49ers re-sign Nelson before his contract expires next March. He had the same salary and cap hits the past two years at $1.15 million. Given his current $975,000 salary, it seems likely he would jump up over $1 million. He’s a great long snapper given that we rarely hear his name mentioned during games, but at one point does he become cost-prohibitive for his position?