The San Francisco 49ers have one of the best kickers and arguably the best punter in the NFL right now. However, neither is very young. Their kicker, Phil Dawson, is already 39. Despite having one of his best seasons thus far last year, how much longer can Dawson last? True, kickers play longer than most players at other positions, but 40 is old for most kickers even.
Then there is Andy Lee, the incredible punter who, along with Frank Gore, was a primary reason for watching the 49ers from 2005-2008 or so. His booming punts still amaze me, but after 10 great seasons, he, too, at 31 years of age, could be facing retirement in the next five years or so.
In addition to their ages, both players are paid a premier for their services. Lee will count about $2.4 million against the cap this next season and will be the ninth highest cap hit for a punter, while Dawson, with a $2 million cap hit in 2014 comes in as the eleventh highest hit among kickers–but his 2015 cap hit is number two, at $4.234 million, according to spotrac.com.
So what does this mean for the 49ers? Well, they are obviously happy with both players for now–they did just re-sign Dawson, while Lee is under contract through 2018. With Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, and Mike Iupati, among others, seeking paydays, could the 49ers attempt to go with a younger specialist to save a couple million dollars?
This would seem unlikely. With the salary cap expected to have another $10 million or so jump next season, the 49ers would almost certainly not cut one of their key players just to save a few bucks–especially after the David Akers collapse in 2012-13. Decent kickers are a dime a dozen. Good kickers are not. Kickers of Dawson’s caliber are rare, who cares about his age or price?
Still, though, a successor at kicker could be an option for the 49ers in the later rounds, with their plethora of picks. Lee has several good years ahead, if all goes as it seems. 31 is by no means “old” for a punter, even if it is not young. Ultimately, though the 49ers are not in dire need of a kicker right away, do not be surprised if they draft one in rounds 5-7. As for a punter, do not expect one to challenge the fan-favorite Lee anytime soon.