The 49ers made a trade. But it wasn’t for the position you’d expect. According to his agent, Mike McCartney, the 49ers have acquired Zane Gonzalez from the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina signed the kicker that we hoped San Francisco would pursue during free agency, Eddy Pineiro. That move made Gonzalez, who didn’t play during 2022, available.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the 49ers and Panthers will swap picks in 2025. It’s a conditional late rounder in ‘25. Per Pelissero, Gonzalez was on the brink of being released before the trade.
Gonzalez, who turns 27 in May, was carted off the field in the preseason finale for Carolina last year due to a non-contact injury. During the postgame press conference, then Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said Gonzalez’s groin injury was “significant” and “long-term.”
In 2021, Gonzalez made 90 percent of his kicks, including a perfect 10-for-10 from 40 to 49 yards and 3-for-5 from 50+ yards. Gonzalez also handled kickoffs for Carolina back in 2021, where he had a touchback percentage of 63.6 percent. The 49ers are betting that Gonzalez is healthy and will return to his most recent form.
Before joining Carolina, Gonzalez struggled as a Cardinals kicker, where he only made 72 percent of his field goals. Furthermore, aside from a 2019 season when he hit 88 percent, Gonzalez had never been above 77 percent in four other opportunities since 2017.
Gonzalez has a cap hit of $2.09 million, but he only has $625,000 of his salary guaranteed, which I’d assume Carolina eats. So, the Niners are likely on the hook for $1,465,000 non-guaranteed base salary.
Trading for Gonzalez shouldn’t take the 49ers out of the kicker market. This move feels like competition for a rookie, as either option would be cheaper than Robbie Gould’s would-be salary in 2023.