The 49ers saw all they needed to see from rookie punter Bradley Pinion during three weeks of the offseason program.
And the advertised competition is over before four-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee ever had a chance to compete to retain his job.
The 49ers traded Lee to the Cleveland Browns on Saturday, a league source confirmed to CSNBayArea.com. The 49ers will receive a seventh-round pick in the 2017 draft in return, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.
It was apparent that Pinion was the overwhelming favorite to win the job after the 49ers invested a fifth-round pick on him in the draft, but general manager Trent Baalke said the team was not sending a message to Lee.
“What we saw in Bradley is a big, strong-legged punter that also kicks off,” Baalke said on the day Pinion was selected. “What it means for Andy, no different than any other position. You come in and you compete. It's not a message to Andy at all. As we always talk about, best player on the board at the time.”
Pinion distinguished himself during offseason workouts with his booming leg, directional punting and hang time. He is also expected to handle the team’s kickoff chores, taking over for Phil Dawson, a 16-year veteran.
Pinion (6 foot 5, 229 pounds) was the No. 165 overall selection. He played played in 34 games at Clemson and posted a 41.1 average with a net average of 39.2. He landed 55 punts inside the 20 with just two touchbacks.
The move also saves the 49ers some salary-cap space. Lee, who is scheduled to earn $2.05 million this season, has four years and $12.45 million remaining on his contract, which the Browns inherit.
Lee, an 11-year veteran, is the franchise leader in punts (941), punting average (46.2), punts downed inside the 20-yard line (300) and net average (39.5). He ranks fifth in NFL history gross average and net average. He and Shane Lechler are the only punters to maintain a 45.0 average with at least 900 career punts.