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49ers cut Akers after record-setting season one year, misery the next

By Star-Advertiser staff and News Services


SANTA CLARA, Calif. >> David Akers’ 49ers career is officially over after a two-year tenure in which he went from a record-setting kicker to one who drew social-media death threats.

The 49ers on Wednesday released Akers, who made only 69 percent of his field-goal attempts last season (29-for-42), yet retained his job through the 49ers’ run to Super Bowl XLVII.

The 49ers, who gained some $3 million in salary-cap relief with Akers’ exit, can look for his successor in a well-stocked free-agent market. Among the veterans expected to become available next week are Phil Dawson, Rob Bironas, Jason Hanson, Mike Nugent and Lawrence Tynes.

The 49ers also could turn back to Billy Cundiff, whom they signed Jan. 1 to compete with Akers. Cundiff failed to unseat Akers before their Jan. 12 playoff opener against Green Bay and was waived Jan. 18.

Drafting a kicker is a seldom-used option for the 49ers, who are expected to enter the draft with 15 picks. The last time the 49ers drafted a kicker was in 2002, when they used a fourth-round pick on Jeff Chandler. He was cut two games into the 2003 season.

The top kickers in next month’s draft, as projected by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., are Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, Florida’s Caleb Sturgis, Portland State’s Zach Brown and Nebraska’s Brett Maher.

Although Akers’ 15th season was filled with frustrating misses, it followed a record-setting 2011 season, in which he made 44 of 52 field-goal attempts, both NFL records, and tallied 166 points, most ever by a kicker.

“The 49ers would like to thank David for his service, dedication and leadership over the past two years,” general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “He is a true professional who represented himself and this organization with class. We wish him, and his family, all the best.”

Akers missed 10 of his final 15 attempts from at least 40 yards, and he didn’t try from that distance in three playoff games. He made all three of his attempts in the 34-31 Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but his final field goal came after a running-into-the-kicker penalty wiped out his wide-left miss from 39 yards.

Akers opened the 2012 season by tying an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in the 49ers’ win over Green Bay at Lambeau Field. But he missed two of four attempts in a Sept. 30 rout over the host New York Jets, and his job status fell further into question when he missed two of three in an Oct. 14 loss to the New York Giants.

A month later, Akers revealed that he had been battling an injury and that he underwent double-hernia surgery in February 2012. Akers, 38, recently underwent another “minor procedure” for that hernia issue and has no intention of retiring, USA Today reported.

Akers deleted his Twitter account after the 49ers’ Dec. 16 win at New England, but not before retweeting a death threat he received for missing one of three field-goal attempts in that game. He missed his first two attempts in the regular-season finale and threw his helmet into the 49ers’ bench in disgust. Akers’ only official postseason miss came when he hit the left upright on a 38-yard attempt in the NFC Championship victory at Atlanta.

Chiefs release Winston

KANSAS CITY, Mo. >> The Kansas City Chiefs made another move in their roster overhaul under new leadership Wednesday night, releasing right tackle Eric Winston after only one season.

The team had not announced the move, but Winston said on Twitter: “Just wanted to confirm that I have been released.” Winston went on to say that although he had a difficult season, “I wouldn’t trade the relationships I made in KC and the overall experience I had for anything.”

Winston signed a four-year, $22 million deal last offseason, but he struggled early in the year and then ran afoul of some fans after he criticized a small percentage for cheering when embattled quarterback Matt Cassel sustained a head injury during a game.

 The move saves the Chiefs $6.5 million against the salary cap.

The Chiefs also restructured the contract of defensive end Tyson Jackson, freeing up space under the salary cap. Jackson would have made $14.72 million and counted $17.5 million toward the cap this season. The details of his restructured deal were not available.

Vikings release WR, save $3M

MINNEAPOLIS >> The Minnesota Vikings created another opening at their thinnest position on Tuesday by releasing veteran receiver Michael Jenkins, clearing $3.25 million of space under the salary cap.

Jenkins was due a roster bonus of $2.425 million on March 16 and a base salary of $825,000 for 2013.

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