Panthers Trade K Zane Gonzalez To 49ers

After allowing kicker Robbie Gould to walk in free agency, the 49ers have figured out Plan No. 1 for the position for next season. According to Panthers staff writer Darin Gantt, Carolina has traded kicker Zane Gonzalez to San Francisco in exchange for a conditional late-round 2025 draft pick. Some reports describe the deal as a conditional swap of late-round picks.

Gonzalez has not kicked in the NFL since 2021. A former seventh-round pick for the Browns in 2017 out of Arizona State, Gonzalez spent just over a year in Cleveland, getting waived after 18 games with a 68% field goal conversation rate and having missed three of 31 extra point attempts. He would rebound with the Cardinals, with whom he’d spend the next three years of his career.

In Arizona, Gonzalez was signed to the practice squad and elevated to fill in for an injured Phil Dawson. Gonzalez’s performance in substitute duty was rewarded with a new contract to stay with the team. He remained the Cardinals’ kicker in 2019 and going into 2020. Late into the 2020 season, though, Gonzalez found the injury bug, was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season, and was released at the end of the league year.

Gonzalez spent three weeks in Detroit during the 2021 preseason before getting waived and signed to the practice squad. After letting go of Ryan Santoso, who kicked for Carolina in Week 1, the Panthers signed Gonzalez off the Lions’ practice squad. Gonzalez would kick for the Panthers until suffering a quad injury during warmups in a Week 15 game in Buffalo. The team was forced to play without a kicker for the game and depended on Lirim Hajrullahu for the remainder of the year.

Gonzalez was ready to retake his spot as the team’s placekicker when his injury woes continued. In the team’s final game of the 2022 preseason, Gonzalez once again injured his quad in warmups, forcing him to miss the entire season. The next day, Carolina signed kicker Eddy Pineiro to fill in for the season. Pineiro went 33-for-35 in field goal attempts and 30 for 32 in extra points and was rewarded with a two-year contract extension to remain the Panthers’ kicker, effectively marking the end of Gonzalez’s tenure in Carolina.

Instead of just releasing Gonzalez, the Panthers have been able to get some value for the superfluous special teamer in the form of San Francisco’s late draft pick. The 49ers were in need of a solution at placekicker after Gould’s departure. The longtime Bears kicker had just concluded his sixth year as a 49er. Gould had excited early in the Bay Area, converting 72 of 75 field goal attempts in his first two seasons with the team. He missed eight field goals the following year and struggled to repeat his early success with the 49ers.

Enter Gonzalez. The 27-year-old is coming off his strongest season, making 20 of 22 field goals in 2021, but is also coming off of a severe injury that held him out of the entire 2022 season. If Gonzalez can shake off the injury bug, he has promise to become the next franchise kicker in San Francisco.

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