When Cortez lost his job to rookie Jeff Chandler last week, it was apparent he never would attempt another kick for the 49ers unless disaster struck. As soon as the Niners needed his spot on the roster, he would be gone. He didn't have the security enjoyed by Chandler when he was the second kicker on the roster, because Chandler was going to be the team's kicker of the future.
Now Chandler's the kicker of the present. Once the Niners saw that Chandler wouldn't implode in live NFL action on Monday night, they felt more comfortable about dumping Cortez, which was going to happen sooner or later anyway. It happened sooner because the Niners - with injuries now piling up - needed the roster spot to sign a safety because of Monday's injury to Ronnie Heard.
That safety was veteran Jason Moore, who was with the team earlier this season before being released when John Keith was ready to be elevated to the 53-man roster. The Niners still are dangerously thin at safety, finishing Monday's 38-17 loss to Philadelphia with only Keith and Tony Parrish available at the position. And both of those players were on the field.
The Niners had given Baker several opportunities this year to improve, and he sealed his fate Monday with poor directional punting and a low and short 36-yard effort that Brian Mitchell returned 76 yards for a touchdown.
Baker's net average of 32.0 yards a kick was the lowest in the league, and the Niners finally got tired of it even though they had stuck by Baker to this point while acknowledging that he was having problems that were hurting their kicking game.
The Niners replaced Baker by signing first-year punter Bill LaFleur off the San Diego Chargers' practice squad.