With so much emphasis placed on special teams by head coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers locked up one of their biggest and best weapons in the field position battle by agreeing to a six-year contract extension with punter Andy Lee as first reported by Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. Now signed through the 2018 season, Lee is expected to earn around $4 million a year, a sizeable upgrade from the last extension he signed back in March 2007 that paid him an average of $1.18 million annually.
Drafted in the sixth-round back in 2004, Lee has spent the last eight seasons punting balls for the 49ers. Currently with a career gross average of 45.7 yards per punt, Lee has consistently increased his leg strength and accuracy during his years in the NFL. Alongside Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler, both he and Lee give the Bay Area the two best punters in the league.
Clearly one of the best players at his position and a very valuable member of the 49ers, this contract extension makes perfect sense. Already a three-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro punter, Lee set a NFL record last season for single-season net punting with a 44.0 average. Lee also outkicked the likes of Lechler, Miami Dolphins' Brandon Fields, New Orleans Saints' Thomas Morstead, and Buffalo Bills' Brian Moorman for first in the NFL with a gross average of 50.9 yards per punt.
When the 49ers struggled on offense, special teams play by Lee helped keep the 49ers in games and pushed opposing offenses deep into their own side of the field. With 28 punts inside the 20-yard line and 14 punts inside the 10-yard line, Lee's leg, along with the 49ers coverage units kept teams at bay and helped the 49ers win close games throughout the season.
Lee was also invaluable as the holder for all of David Akers' field-goal and point-after attempts. In his first season with the team after 12 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Akers instantly found success with the 49ers by setting a league record for field-goals made, field-goals attempted, and points by a kicker in a season.
With Lee's contract concerns out of the way, the 49ers now turns its sights to safety Dashon Goldon as the primary contract concern. Offered a $6.2 million franchise tender, Goldson does not plan on signing his tender or attending the team's offseason program according to CSNBayArea.com.
49ers to sign Lee to contract extension, CSN Bay Area
NFL - Statistics by Position - Punter, Yahoo! Sports
49ers sign punter Andy Lee to six-year contract, Bay Area News Group
Source: 49ers' Goldson not close to signing tender, CSN Bay Area
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Austin Chang is a lifelong football fan, San Francisco 49ers supporter, and a Featured Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow this contributor on Twitter @_austinchang.
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