Tuesday was a big day for 49ers specialists.
San Francisco early in the day agreed to a four-year contract extension for long snapper Kyle Nelson, according to an ESPN report. But the bigger story, perhaps, is the loss of the team’s punter, holder and kickoff specialist.
Punter Bradley Pinion is expected to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to ESPN, leaving the 49ers after four seasons. He was a 2015 fifth-round pick in former general manager Trent Baalke’s penultimate draft before being fired following the 2016 season.
Pinion in 2018 ranked 30th in the NFL, averaging 43.1 yards per punt, while his 39.1 net yards ranked 24th and his 22 punts pinned inside the 20-yard line tied for 19th. He’ll get a four-year contract with Tampa Bay.
Pinion, 24, will be much closer to home with his new team. He played at Clemson and is from North Carolina. He was one of the 49ers’ most active players in community service. He was the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award finalist in 2017. He was also among the league’s best in kickoffs, which lightened the load for mid-30s kickers Phil Dawson and Robbie Gould.
The move means coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will be in the market for a punter. They’ll likely add one in free agency, which officially kicks off with the start of the new league year Wednesday. They could also find a punter in the draft, though they only have six selections. Gould, a pending free agent, was given the franchise tag last month, making just under $5 million guaranteed for 2019.
Nelson, 32, has six games remaining on his 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, passed down in December. The 49ers replaced him with Colin Holba, who is likely to remain in that role while Nelson is suspended. Nelson has been with the 49ers since 2012 and has been a reliable long snapper.