2011 49ers Grades: CJ Spillman

Doing his special teams thing, downing a punt inside the one against the Cardinals. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

A significant factor in the 49ers 2011 success was the impressive play of all aspects of their special teams. That leaves a certain amount of irony surrounding their NFC title game loss, but that's neither here nor there. More than anything, the 49ers coverage units were as good as we might ever see. It is difficult to fully assess the performance overall, so that is a bit subjective, but I can live with it.

C.J. Spillman was as big a part of the 49ers coverage units as anybody else. It is hard to declare one guy better than others, but Spillman was a big-time part of the punt and kick coverage units. He did get some work with the defense in goal line packages, but his primary role in 2011 was special teams. Everything else was sort of bonus.

Spillman was a restricted free agent this year and the 49ers were able bring him back for three years at a deal that can max out at $6 million. In reality, the deal is a three year contract worth $4.2 million with an additional $1.8 million in incentives that could bring it up to the full $6 million. The deal reportedly includes a signing bonus of $925,000 and base salaries of $750,000 in the first year and $1,225,000 in years two and three.

When I first heard about the deal it seemed like an indication Spillman might see more playing time as a reserve safety. Now, I am not quite so sure about that. He could still work his way into an expanded role, but they have some flexibility with it. Well, not flexibility yet considering the limited number of safeties on the roster. The 49ers would seem just about guaranteed to grab one or two safeties in either free agency or the draft, and that is not counting any undrafted free agents they may sign after the draft.

Do you see Spillman earning an expanded role in 2012?

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