San Francisco 49ers long-snapper Kyle Nelson will start the 2019 season on the suspended list, and his future with the team beyond that remains in some serious doubt.
Yes, the same player who was hit with a 10-game suspension last year for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Nelson still has six games left on his suspension, meaning he won’t be on the roster come Week 1. Instead, the starting job to kick off 2019 all but goes to fellow long-snapper Colin Holba, who relieved Nelson of his duties over the final four contests last year.
Nelson, 32 years old, joined the Niners in 2014 after the team moved on from one-and-done long-snapper Kevin McDermott.
And if you haven’t heard of Nelson, aside from the suspension, that’s usually a good thing for a long-snapper.
Why Kyle Nelson Improves in 2019
Well, it’s sort of a silly question to ask in this case. You don’t exactly see lofty accolades for long-snappers, and the best ones are those who have gone unnoticed.
Nelson has mostly done this during his 49ers tenure. And aside from a handful of preseason snaps at tight end, you won’t see any traditional stats from him outside of games played.
Consistency is the name of the game here. Assuming San Francisco sticks with Nelson after his suspension, and he winds up avoiding what always look like bad mistakes, he’ll be just fine.
Why Kyle Nelson Regresses
Nelson is getting up there in age, but there isn’t exactly a lot of wear and tear at this spot. Especially with rules designed to protect long-snappers when they’re most vulnerable.
That said, the extended time away could result in some rust. Sure, Nelson has likely continued honing his craft. And while it’s unheralded and rarely appreciated, bumping away from the normal rhythm of regular-season action could create some kinks.
If he’s even on the roster by the time he’s eligible to return.
Chances of Making the 49ers’ 53-Man Roster in 2019
As noted earlier, Nelson won’t be eligible to return until Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers. At that point, barring any unforeseen circumstances, San Francisco will have a choice between Nelson and Holba.
Like Nelson, Holba went largely unnoticed during his four-game stretch to close out 2018. That’s good. And at 25 years old, Holba has the age factor on his side, too.
A lot of it comes down to contracts. Nelson is signed through 2022, but his current contract carries zero in dead money after this season. The $450,000 dead-money total for 2019 is also pretty negligible.
Holba, meanwhile, is signed through this year alone and has zero in guaranteed money. If the 49ers were hard pressed against the cap right now — they aren’t — the quick-take move would be to part ways with Holba once Nelson was eligible to return.
That said, Holba would likely have to lose his job outright for Nelson to retake it in Week 7 and beyond.
It’s hard to see that happening, meaning Nelson is likely on the chopping block once his suspension wraps up.