49ers sign kicker, keep Akers — for now
Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 5:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 5:54 p.m.
SANTA CLARA — The 49ers signed kicker Billy Cundiff on Tuesday to compete with struggling David Akers.
“He's thrilled with the opportunity to be in a position to help the team in any way he can this postseason,” said Cundiff's agent, Paul Sheehy. “It's a great opportunity, with a great organization.”
The team announced the move a day after coach Jim Harbaugh said that the NFC West champion Niners (11-4-1) — off this week as the NFC's No. 2 seed — planned to try out kickers because of Akers' prolonged funk.
Cundiff was released by the Washington Redskins on Oct.9 after missing five of his field-goal attempts. He had already worked out once for the Niners on Nov.27 before they invited him back this time, as Harbaugh initially chose to stick with Akers.
Now, Akers and Cundiff will compete to see who kicks in the team's first-round playoff game Jan.12 at Candlestick Park. San Francisco will play either Green Bay, Seattle or Washington.
The 49ers cleared a spot on the 53-man roster for Cundiff by waiving linebacker Eric Bakhtiari. Players had Monday, Tuesday and today off before returning to practice Thursday — so that will be the first look at both kickers together.
Cundiff spent the 2009-11 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, who are coached by Harbaugh's brother, John. But Cundiff was cut after last season, when he missed a potential tying 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the AFC Championship that sent New England to the Super Bowl.
Jim Harbaugh said Monday he might keep two kickers on the roster and open up a competition.
“If we had two on the roster at the same time, then they can kick in practice,” Harbaugh said. “And that's an option. That's a possibility. I think there are three options. We go forward with David. We bring in a new kicker. Or, we have two and let them compete for the job. We'll make that decision as we go.”
Akers, who made 44 of 52 attempts in his sensational 2011 season and first year with San Francisco, is 29 for 42 this year, including an NFL record-tying 63-yard kick in the season opener at Green Bay. He is only 7 for 13 from 40-49 yards and missed wide left twice from that range in Sunday's 27-13 victory against Arizona in the regular-season finale.
Akers, 38, signed a three-year contract as arguably the 49ers' biggest offseason acquisition ahead of the 2011 season, aside from the hiring of Harbaugh. And he delivered at nearly every opportunity — until recently.
He had a 21-yard attempt blocked by Red Bryant in a 42-13 loss at Seattle on Dec. 23, and Richard Sherman returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. Cundiff, 32, joins his sixth team in 10 NFL seasons. He has also played for Dallas, New Orleans and Cleveland.
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