The San Francisco 49ers don’t have a lot of notable free agents this year, but one that has flown under the radar is punter Bradley Pinion. He is through his rookie deal and joins fellow special teamers Robbie Gould and Kyle Nelson in free agency. The 49ers used the franchise tag on Gould, so he is not going anywhere. Meanwhile, Nelson is serving a ten-game suspension and likely won’t be signing anywhere until that is done.
That leaves Pinion as a question mark. There has been little discussion about it, but earlier this week, Matt Barrows reported that, “I’ve heard that Pinion has been telling those around him that he doesn’t expect to be back.”
Pinion did not have an awful year, but the 49ers punt unit was less than stellar. His net dropped from 41.3 yards to 39.1 yards, and he had 22 punts drop inside the 20 as compared to 31 the previous year. His gross did increase from 43.4 to 43.7. The punt coverage unit as a whole ranked 17th a year after rankings 13th.
Pinion has added value by also serving as the team’s kickoff specialist. The kickoff is a little less important with the line being moved up, but it is still a valuable skill given the 49ers plans on retaining Gould this season.
The free agent market is fairly limited with Ryan Allen, Jordan Berry, Pat O’Donnell, and Donnie Jones joining Pinion on the market. Barrows mentioned Stanford punter Jake Bailey as an option who also handled kickoffs, and was on the 49ers South roster at the Senior Bowl. There are other candidates, but we’ll see if this results in the 49ers spending a late round pick or just picking somebody off the UDFA heap.