49ers ‘Who Is?’ series: Robbie Gould to bounce back in 2020?

Robbie Gould #9 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Robbie Gould #9 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

49ers kicker Robbie Gould needs a massive improvement over his substandard 2019 campaign to hang onto the Niners roster beyond 2020.

It was one of the more provocative moves the San Francisco 49ers made in 2019, placing the franchise tag on a kicker, Robbie Gould, following go-nowhere developments in what had been lengthy and unproductive contract-extension talks most of that year.

Tagging a kicker is an odd move, although it did ultimately lead to the Niners extending their negotiating window with the veteran, which generated a four-year, $19 million deal heading into 2020.

Yet the negotiations cut into Gould’s on-field time during offseason workouts. Combined with some other factors within San Francisco’s special teams unit, the 37 year old ended up producing one of the worst statistical campaigns of his 15-year career:

Robbie Gould Kicking Table
11 y11 yCHI1660233232765885.4%38337999.0%
3 yr3 yrSFO4506106955389.6%1019695.0%
1 yr1 yrNYG100101047100.0%232087.0%

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/26/2020.

From leading the entire NFL in field-goal percentage in 2018 to ranking 26th in this category among 33 qualifiers.

Granted, Gould was hindered by injury and dealt with a small carousel of specialists in front of him. But that doesn’t automatically explain what the longtime kicker put up over the course of an otherwise special season for San Francisco.

There’s a good chance, however, Gould bounces back this upcoming season and reverts to the kind of reliable “Good as Gould” kicker fans expect him to be, particularly for the kind of money he’s receiving.

Yet it could also be an inevitable sign of regression, too, which could put his status with the team beyond 2020 in serious doubt.

Why Robbie Gould improves with 49ers in 2020

The lack of participation in offseason workouts last year could have hindered Gould’s on-field efforts, and seven of his eight field-goal misses came within the first half of 2019.

Perhaps Gould needed some practical time to get his proverbial “kicking legs” back underneath him. It’s also possible the Niners’ rotation of long-snappers, plus a brand-new holder in punter Mitch Wishnowsky, created some issues for Gould as well.

Before long-snapper Kyle Nelson returned from his lengthy 10-game suspension, the 49ers rotated fellow long-snappers Colin Holba, Garrison Sanborn and Jon Condo before getting Nelson back.

As far as moving parts go, there’s a lot to this equation. The hope is Gould won’t have to worry about an ever-changing special teams battery in front of him heading into 2020, which could propel a return to his career averages.

Why Robbie Gould regresses with 49ers in 2020

It would be hard for Gould to get much worse than he did last season without warranting a complete cut from the roster.

That said, one has to consider Gould’s age and the inevitable reality he won’t be capable of making those field goals with regularity any longer.

Granted, Gould’s efforts improved over the second half, which is a good sign things returned to normal when the battery of specialists settled. Yet with any player getting up there in age, one has to wonder if both the accuracy and distance will suffer the sudden drop-off so many kickers experience later in their careers.

Dissecting Robbie Gould’s future with 49ers

San Francisco doesn’t have any kickers on its offseason roster who’ll compete with Gould in training camp. Even with Wishnowsky handling kickoff duties, Gould still has a spot to claim.

Things get interesting for Gould beyond 2020, however, especially considering the Niners aren’t exactly wading in cap space and have some sizable player extensions and re-signs to consider, namely tight end George Kittle and cornerbacks Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams.

The last two years of Gould’s contract are option years, and he has zero in guaranteed money for 2021 and 2022. Gould will be 38 years old by then, and the 49ers could ultimately save $3.75 million with $1.5 million in dead money if he’s cut entering 2021.

Gould is almost guaranteed not to see 2022, given San Francisco could save $4 million with only $750,000 in dead money. Simply put, Gould would need to put together two All-Pro kind of seasons in 2020 and 2021 to live out the remainder of his contract.

Next. 3 Niners players who have career years in 2020. dark

Needless to say, this upcoming season could be Gould’s swan song in the Bay Area, which could still be his last even if he winds up reverting back to the kind of production he and the team enjoyed back in 2018.