This week the San Francisco 49ers released kicker David Akers after a forgettable 2012 season that saw him make just 29 of his 44 field goal attempts. Now the 49ers head into free agency that starts on March 12 looking for a replacement kicker.
Akers had a record breaking season in 2011, setting NFL records with 44 field goals made and 52 attempted. But after his many miscues this past season, including one in the Super Bowl, the Niners were wise to move on without him.
Of course, that leaves a hole at placekicker for the 49ers with the start of free agency in a few days. There are plenty of veteran kickers available in free agency for San Francisco to choose from. Also, don’t be surprised if the team uses one of its early round draft picks on a kicker to compete with a veteran.
Here is a list of the top-five available options at kicker for the 49ers and who they should sign in order:
1. Phil Dawson
2012 Team: Cleveland Browns
Outlook: Dawson is currently 38 years old, but when it comes to kickers, age is not a factor. More importantly, Dawson made 29-of-31 field goal attempts and connected on all seven of his attempts from 50-plus last season. He is the best available option, so hopefully the 49ers won’t have to second guess the abilities of their kicker in 2013.
2. Lawrence Tynes
2012 Team: New York Giants
Outlook: What the 49ers need more than anything is a veteran kicker with big game experience. When it comes to Tynes, there is not a better option for a clutch kicker as he has won two Super Bowl rings. He is the only player in NFL history to have two overtime game-winning field goals in the playoffs. Both of the game-winning kicks came in the NFC Championship Game, in 2007 and 2011. Unfortunately, the latter was against the 49ers. Last season, Tynes made 84.6% of his field goals. Even though he made only 1-of-3 attempts from 50-plus, he was 7-of-9 on field goals between 40-49 yards.
3. Shayne Graham
2012 Team: Houston Texans
Outlook: A red flag for Graham is since 2011, he has been with five different teams. However, his 2012 numbers with the Texans indicate a solid option for the 49ers. He made 31-of-38 field goals and connected on 4-of-9 kicks from 50-plus last season. In the recent playoffs he was a perfect 6-for-6 on field goals, including a career long field goal of 55 yards against the New England Patriots in the divisional round.
4. Jason Hanson
2012 Team: Detroit Lions
Outlook: At 43 years old, Hanson is the oldest active player in the NFL. He is unsure if he will return to the NFL for a 22nd season. But what could entice Hanson to come back for one more season would be a legitimate chance of winning a Super Bowl with the 49ers. There is a chance that he will re-sign with the Lions if chooses to come back, a team he has been with since 1992. The ageless wonder was automatic on kicks last season making 33-of-36 field goal attempts, including an astounding 16 between 40-49 yards.
5. Nick Novak
2012 Team: San Diego Chargers
Outlook: Even though Novak has a career field goal percentage of 76.2, he made 18-of-20 field goals filling in for an injured Nate Kaeding last season. He also hit 2-of-4 field goal attempts from 50-plus.
Other free agent kicker possibilities for the 49ers: Nate Kaeding, Nick Folk, Josh Brown, Mike Nugent, Ryan Longwell, Olindo Mare and Steven Hauschka.