After swapping out one 38-year-old kicker for another, San Francisco is hoping to have better luck with its newest acquisition. Kicker Phil Dawson signed a one-year contract (via Adam Schefter of ESPN) with the 49ers after spending 14 years with the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns hadn't shown a whole lot of interest in re-signing Dawson, so his agent started fielding calls from other organizations. Seemingly the Niners were the best fit. The change in weather from Cleveland to San Francisco will definitely be welcomed.
Not to mention Dawson would be reuniting former special teams coach Brad Seely. According to Eric Branch of sfgate.com, Seely was Dawson's coach from 2009-2010. During that two-year stretch, No. 4's field-goal percentage was an average of 86.4—2.4 points higher than his career average.
His 84 percent career average currently makes him the 12th most accurate kicker in NFL history. But don't expect Dawson to be satisfied with 12th best—it appears as if he is getting better with age.
Since the start of the 2009 season, Dawson has missed a mere 14 field goals. That averages out to 3.5 field goals per year. Just imagine how different things would have been for the 49ers in 2012 if they would have only missed three or four kicks compared to Akers' 14.
Sure, it's easy to play devil's advocate now, but both Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke know that Dawson is reliable. And that's exactly what they are looking for after the Akers debacle last season. They want a kicker who doesn't have a history of injury and can kick in any weather condition thrown his way.
Despite attempting a measly two career field goals at Candlestick, that didn't steer Dawson away from signing. He already has a plan that will surely help him get ready for the 2013 season. In an interview with Eric Branch, he revealed what that plan was:
I’ll study the weather forecast and when there’s supposed to be bad days, you can find me down there. I want to get in there and I want to start hitting balls. I wanted to see what’s going on and get a game plan.
Luckily, he knows what it is like to kick in not so ideal weather conditions. Moreover, the grass at Candlestick has been known to wear down quite quickly in the middle of the field, making the footing a bit tricky at times. Just ask Akers and Greg Zuerlein of the St. Louis Rams. Both players had footing issues when the clubs squared off against each other in Week 10 of the 2012 season.
Let's also make it a point to remember the fact that Dawson still has one of the strongest legs in the league. Last year he was 7-of-7 on kicks of 50-plus yards away, and in 2011 he was 7-of-8. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted out of Texas and was subsequently waived by two teams before finally catching on with Cleveland in 1999.
The longest kick of his career came in a preseason game against the Packers in 2010; he hit a 58-yarder to tie the game with 1:27 left to play. Unfortunately for Dawson, that kick doesn't go down as his career long because it was the preseason. But his 56-yard bomb in 2008 against the Bills definitely counts.
He's also been known to make a couple of moon shots as well. Even though he's never been given the opportunity in a game, Dawson has hit plenty of 60-yard plus kicks in training camp and practice. Below is a video of him displaying his monster leg in training camp last year.
Whether fans like the fact he is 38, or absolutely hate it because of his predecessor should be beside the point. The signing brings stability to an unstable position. Dawson still has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, is one of most accurate kickers in league history and has no serious injury history.