Bradley Pinion’s statistics were not optimal during his contract year. But, considering the level of competition he faced, the 49ers’ punter said he is satisfied with the results.
“I thought I had a good year,” Pinion told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I got off to a slow start and had a big run-back against the Chargers. And we had a blocked punt against L.A., so those always hurt your numbers. The numbers might not have been where I wanted them this year, but I thought I had probably my most consistent year, yet.”
Pinion was tied for 29th in the NFL with a 43.7 average. He was tied for 24th with a net average of 39.1 yards. Net average is the most meaningful stat for a punter, and it was the lowest of his four-year career. Pinion ranked tied for 10th in the league in 2017 with a 41.3 net average.
The 49ers, under then-general manager Trent Baalke, selected Pinion in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and traded longtime stalwart Andy Lee to the Cleveland Browns.
This season, Pinion and the 49ers’ punt coverage team faced some of the top threats in the league, including five of the top six in return yards – Tarik Cohen (Chicago), Desmond King (L.A. Chargers), Dwayne Harris (Oakland), JoJo Nelson (L.A. Rams) and Marcus Sherels (Minnesota).
Another potential game-breaker, Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill, had one return for 5 yards. Cohen had four fair-catches and no return yards against the 49ers in Week 16, as Pinion had a 45.3 net average. But King had a 56-yard return in Week 4 in the 49ers’ 29-27 loss to the Chargers.
“We played the death row of returners this year,” Pinion said, “and one of them got us.”
The 49ers do not have a long list of scheduled free agents, but Pinion and kicker Robbie Gould have contracts that are scheduled to expire this spring. Those players are allowed to negotiate only with the 49ers until March 11.
In addition to his punting chores, Pinion handles the kickoffs and is the holder on all of Gould’s kicks. Over the past two seasons with Pinion holding, Gould made 72 of 75 field-goal attempts (96 percent) with the 49ers.
“We’ve talked a lot, and we’re on the same page,” Pinion said of Gould.
Pinion said he wants to remain with the 49ers, and he has gotten the impression from those inside the organization that they want him to return, as well. But until the sides enter into negotiations and a deal is struck, he knows nothing is certain.
“You don’t know where you’re going to end up,” Pinion said. “It would say something if you can spend your whole career in one place, and I’d love to do that. But it boils down to whether you can come to some kind of agreement. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s a crazy business.”