Naturally my last 90-in-90 contribution of the offseason is going to revolve around the San Francisco 49ers’ new punter! After four years of fairly middling returns from punter Bradley Pinion, the 49ers decided to go in a new direction this year. Pinion wrapped up his four-year rookie contract last season and quickly departed in free agency — signing a four-year contract with the 49ers Week 1 opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 49ers decision to move on from Pinion made all the sense in the world. For three of his four seasons with the team, Pinion ranked in the bottom third of the league in net punt yards. The punt coverage units are pertinent context to net yards, but Pinion never stood out as one of the better punters in the league.
Six weeks after Pinion departed, the 49ers spent a fourth-round pick on Utah Ute and Australian-born punter Mitch Wishnowsky (after trading back six spots in the round). He was the first punter off the board, followed by Stanford’s Jake Bailey. Naturally, a fourth-round pick on a punter drew a lot of reactions here and on Twitter. There is no doubting the talent Wishnowsky brings to the table, but as is always the case with a special teams draft pick in the middle of the draft, people have opinions!
The 49ers signed Wishnowsky to his rookie contract only a few days after drafting him. As a fourth-round pick, Wishnowsky received a $764,072 signing bonus. He will receive a $495,000 base salary in 2019.
What to expect in 2019
Expectations are high. Virtually every analyst who has written, spoken, or tweeted about Wishnowsky has been effusive in their praise. He had a strong performance in OTAs and minicamp, and punt returner Trent Taylor praised him. He brings a host of styles that he learned in Australia, and he has been compared extensively to the Seattle Seahawks’ own Australian-born punter, Michael Dickson.
Wishnowsky will also be Robbie Gould’s holder, and it would appear he will handle kickoffs, too.
Odds of making the roster
He’s going to be on the roster and starting as the punter and likely as the kickoff specialist. It now comes down to just how good he can be. Can he meet the expectations that come with being compared to Dickson? He should be an improvement over Pinion, but just how much? His ceiling appears to be considerably higher?