The first franchise tag of 2019 has been handed out and it's going to a kicker.
The 49ers announced on Tuesday that they've tagged Robbie Gould in a move that will instantly make him the highest-paid kicker in the NFL for the 2019 season. The tag number for kickers is expected to be roughly $5.01 million this year and all of that money will become guaranteed for Gould once he signs his one-year deal with the team.
Although the contract for a tagged player is only for one year, the two sides are still allowed to try and hammer out a long-term deal. However, if the two sides can't agree on a multi-year deal before the NFL's July 15 deadline, then Gould will have to play the 2019 season under the one-year contract that comes with being a franchised player.
Five million dollars might be a lot to pay a kicker, but Gould is definitely worth it. In 2018, the 36-year-old kicker was one of the 49ers biggest weapons. Gould led the NFL by nailing 97.1 percent of his field goals (33 of 34).
Gould starred in each of the 49ers' four wins last season. During a 30-27 win over the Lions in Week 2, Gould scored 12 of San Francisco's points with three field goals and three extra points. Gould was also instrumental during a huge upset win over the Seahawks in Week 15. In the 26-23 overtime victory, Gould hit four field goals, including a 36-yard game-winner in OT.
Since being cut by the Bears before the 2016 season, Gould has been on a roll. In stints with the Giants (2016) and 49ers (2017-18), Gould has hit 96.5 percent of his field goals (82 of 85) while multiple Bears kickers have combined to hit just 56 percent of their kicks (57-75) over the same span.
The Bears kicking struggles peaked in 2018 with Cody Parkey, who was of a four-year contract that he signed in March.
Before being tagged by the 49ers, Gould sounded open to the possibility of returning to Chicago.
"Once a Bear always a Bear," Gould said, per the Associated Press. "I truly mean that. This is where I spent 11 years of my life playing for an awesome organization. I've developed a lot of great relationships throughout the city but also the organization, just like I've done in New York, just like I've done in San Francisco. Will it happen? I don't know."
Although Gould has now been tagged, a reunion is still theoretically possible, but HIGHLY unlikely. According to ESPN.com, Gould has been hit with the non-exclusive tag, which means other teams are still allowed to negotiate with him. However, if Gould were to sign with another team, that team would have to send two first-round picks to the 49ers and the chances of a team giving up two picks for a kicker is about zero percent.
For a look at kickers who will be.