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49ers tap into Panthers pipeline for kicker to replace Robbie Gould

SANTA CLARA — And here’s the kicker: Zane Gonzalez, Robbie Gould’s apparent successor with the 49ers.

The 49ers ushered out Gould’s six-year tenure Friday by trading for Gonzalez from the Carolina Panthers, a franchise that has offered them a pipeline of talent since last October.

Preceding Gonzalez on the cross-country move: running back Christian McCaffrey in last October’s trade, new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks in January, and quarterback Sam Darnold and cornerback Myles Hartsfield in free agency.

Unlike the midseason trade for McCaffrey that cost the 49ers a haul of draft picks (including 2023 second-, third- and fourth-round spots), Gonzalez was acquired on the cheap, for a conditional swap of late-round pick in the 2025 draft, the 49ers announced.

Gonzalez, who must still pass a physical to complete the trade, was deemed expendable once the Panthers signed Eddie Pineiro to a two-year deal Thursday.

Gould remains on the free agent market that opened last week. He announced March 4 that he would not be re-signing with the 49ers, who still could use one of their 11 picks in next month’s draft on a kicker to challenge Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, 27, missed last season with a quadriceps injury. An All-American out of Arizona State in 2016, he was a 2017 seventh-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, who cut him two games into the 2018 season. Gonzalez then made 54-of-66 field-goal attempts and 77-of-80 point-after kicks with the Arizona Cardinals through the 2020 season.

The Panthers signed him in 2021 off the Detroit Lions practice squad, and he made 20-of-22 field-goal attempts (22-of-23 point-after kicks) in 12 games before a quadriceps injury ended his season.

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Gonzalez’s career totals include an 80.5-percent field-goal accuracy with 91 field goals and 400 points. Those numbers pale in comparison to the 18-year totals of Gould (86.5-percent accuracy, 447 field goals, 1,961 points). Gould’s playoff career is unmatched: he has made all 29 field-goal and 39 point-after attempts.

Gonzalez has never kicked in the playoffs. But he does moonlight as a kickoff specialist, and that is a trait the 49ers wanted their kicker to have, and what they had in Gould, rather than relegate that chore to punter Mitch Wishnowsky.


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