On Friday the Chicago Bears announced the planned release of kicker Cody Parkey with the start of the new league year. Parkey struggled last year and made only 23 of 30 field goal attempts, most famously missing a last-second, potentially game winning field goal in the Wild Card round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia Eagles. He also missed 3 PATs.
The Bears now are looking for a reliable replacement and the most logical option would be Robbie Gould, the ex-Bear and their all-time leading scorer, whose contract with the 49ers is up in March. The 49ers, however, have the option of simply using the franchise tag on Gould. This would be logical; the 49ers have about $70 million available in cap space and no other pressing free agents to use the tag on. So, what are the reasons for and against tagging the reliable former Bear?
As mentioned above, the 49ers are financially set up to worry about a contract extension later. They are expected to be aggressive in the offseason, but that does not prevent them from spending roughly $5 million on Gould, which they might need to spend anyway if they want to keep him on a multi-year deal.
Most importantly though, Gould is the second most accurate field goal kicker in the history of the NFL amongst players with at least 150 attempts (equals 4-5 seasons). Kickers of that caliber and reliability are hard to come by and usually teams are smart to retain those kinds of players. The Bears are a prescient example of a team allowing such a kicker (Gould!!) to depart and being punished for doing so.
Another important historical factor: Of all games ever played, 21.97% result in a point differential of 3 points or less. Chances simply are that the 49ers have to face at least three or four 3-point games in any give season. Under Shanahan, the 49ers topped that and had seven 3-point games in 2017 and five in 2018. Having a near perfect kicker helps massively, both in keeping games closer (maximising the area of the field in which a team can expect to score points) and in being the difference in close games. This is even more critical in the playoffs, which is where the 49ers ultimately want to be.
Being a kicker in the NFL comes with immense pressure. Kickers need to be able to focus 100% on their jobs to be effective and efficient. Robert Aguayo and Blair Walsh are the most extreme recent examples. In a radio interview from a few days ago, Robbie Gould said that he is looking forward to free agency. He wants to go where it is best for his family. The 36-year old seeks a three-year deal from a winning team. This is where it becomes dicey.
If Gould gets franchise tagged, the 49ers (drastically speaking) would hold him hostage. His family still lives in Chicago and the Bears are indeed a winning team. Gould would be in a situation he apparently is not comfortable with which might affect his kicking.
I do think the 49ers should use the franchise tag on Gould. He has shown time after time that he is capable of handling pressure and was money in any given situation for the 49ers.
However, I also think the 49ers should be the team to extend him long-term. Basically, give your kicker what he wants. Not only does he then feel comfortable, it would be well deserved. I do believe there is interest from Gould to come back to San Francisco and I also believe the 49ers are slowly but steadily improving towards becoming a winning team, even though the record over the past two years does not exactly show it. Yes, Chicago is still an attractive destination for Gould, but he would likely have to make amends when it comes to his contract demands as the Bears do not have the cap space like the 49ers.
What do you think? Will the 49ers bring Gould back? Should the 49ers even try to bring him back?