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90-in-90: Could Robbie Gould hold out all year?

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is kicker Robbie Gould

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We weren’t going to get through the 90-in-90 series without me making a few contributions. I’ve got a few of my favorites, and why not get started with one of the 49ers stickier situations this offseason: the status of kicker Robbie Gould.

Gould wrapped up his second season with the 49ers this past year, and it was a strong one. He converted 33 of 34 field goal attempts including nine of ten over 40 yards and both of his 50+ yard field goal attempts. He earned two special teams player of the week awards, including one for his four field goal performance in a 26-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

The 49ers had Bradley Pinion handling their kickoffs, and if Gould is back in 2019, rookie punter Mitch Wishnowsky is likely to handle kickoffs in his place.

Of course, that brings up the big “if” of this process...

Age: 36
Experience: 14 accrued seasons
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 190 pounds

Cap Status

The 49ers placed the franchise tag on him this offseason. The one-year tender pays $4.971 million and is fully guaranteed. However, Gould wants to return to Chicago and has yet to sign the tender. In April, he pulled a contract proposal off the table and requested a trade. Gould skipped the team’s mandatory minicamp in June. After that, he was hosting his charity golf tournament and described the situation as complicated. He said, “I’m at a point in my career where my family is what’s going to dictate the decisions that I make.”

What to expect in 2019

Normally I would split this up between why he will improve and why he will regress. This is a different situation, given his contract status. If Gould returns, age could be an issue, but his contract situation raises its own share of questions about potential performance.

The primary question is whether or not he returns to the team and signs the franchise tender. I suspect he ends up back with the 49ers, but it all comes down to how far he is willing to push this.

Gould took a big step back in his final year with Chicago, which is what resulted in him eventually ending up with the 49ers. If he did decide to return to the 49ers, I wonder if his contract status and future would distract him. The mental part of the kicking game is a big deal, and that is one way we could see some regression if he is kicking for the 49ers this year.

Odds of Gould ending this and returning to the 49ers

Normally, this would be the odds of making the roster, but we know what this is all about. Will he or won’t he?

There are four notable ways this could play out. 1) He could join the team at some point in training camp. 2) He could hold out through camp and rejoin the team in time for the start of the season. 3) He could hold out until the last possible moment midway through the season and then join the team to get credit for the season. 4) He could hold out the entire year and force the 49ers hand next offseason.

For that fourth one, the most recent example of it is Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers running back held out all last season, and this past offseason finally got free to sign with the Jets. For most positions, a year off can raise some questions about rust. A kicker needs to keep practicing, but it’s a lot easier to stay fresh as a kicker when you’re not reliant on every other position. Furthermore, whereas most positions have a smaller timeframe for continuing an NFL career, kickers can often play into their 40s.

If Gould held out all year, the situation resets next year, and the 49ers could again tag him. However, if he held out all year, could we see the 49ers decide to wash their hands of the situation and move on? I don’t see that being the craziest of potential outcomes.