San Francisco 49ers 2013 roster review: Special Teams

Kevin C. Cox

The 2014 offseason is officially underway for the 49ers. Before we get into 2014 preview content, we'll review each of the 49ers position units. We'll break down how they performed in 2013, and their roster status for 2014. We wrap up this series with a look at special teams.

The 2013 season is a wrap for the San Francisco 49ers, but before we take the deep dive into free agency and look ahead to 2014, we're going to take an initial look at that season that was for each position group. We can now wrap this up with a look at special teams.

Special teams is always a tough area to judge. We know what kickers can do on field goals, but everything else is so unit specific. We know Andy Lee can boom punts, and has great skill in placement, but often times his performance is boosted by key plays from the gunners and other special teamers on the punt unit. The same holds true for kickoffs. We don't have a lot of specific stats, but it is still worth a review and brief look ahead.

Phil Dawson - 16 games | 32/36 FGM, Long: 56, 44/44 XPM

We might as well start with the one who is easiest to assess on his own merits. And of course, he is a big question mark this offseason. Phil Dawson put together a fantastic season for the 49ers, converting the second most field goals in franchise history. The number was so high in part because of missed opportunities by the 49ers offense, but having a kicker to convert those field goals was still a big deal.

I don't know what else needs to be said about Dawson's 2013 season that hasn't already been said. After some early misses, he was almost flawless the rest of the way. He does not have a booming leg for kickoffs, but with the help of the coverage units, the 49ers generally did fine on kickoffs.

Now, he heads into free agency after completing his one-year deal. He's old enough where he likely would not get a significant pay raise across the league. At some point I'd hope the 49ers would roll the dice on a young kicker to keep costs down for a stretch, but I don't think this is that year. Dawson wants to come back, so we'll see how the team handles this.

2014 status: Unrestricted free agent

Andy Lee - 16 games | 79 punts, 48.2 gross, 41.7 net (4th), 27 Inside 20

It was another strong year for Andy Lee. His numbers were not record-setting out of this world, but he continues to display a strong and accurate leg. He benefited in part from a fairly dominant coverage unit. They were not perfect, but the 49ers got great work from their punt coverage guys most of the season. With a few of them up for new contracts this year, it will be interesting to see how the 49ers address that.

2014 status: Signed through 2018 | Base: $1,900,000; Cap: $2,400,000

LaMichael James - 12 KR, 26.8 average (12th), Long: 41 | 23 PR, 10.9 average (10th), Long: 40

The 49ers second year running back has not seen a lot of opportunities on offense, but he has been a solid enough play-maker on special teams. Once the team unloaded Kyle Williams, LMJ stepped in as the primary return man and did a solid job. He did not break any long, and he had a couple mis-steps, but for the most part, he was quite solid as a return man. He's a player who can do some great things when he gets out in space, which makes return work ideal for him.

2014 status: Signed through 2015 | Base: $641,718; Cap: $905,154

C.J. Spillman - 19 ST tackles
2014 status: Signed through 2014 | Base: $1,225,000; Cap: $1,558,334

Raymond Ventrone - 15 ST tackles
2014 status: Signed through 2014 | Base/Cap: $855,000

Craig Dahl - 7 ST tackles
2014 status: Signed through 2015 | Base: $1,350,000; Cap: $1,883,333

Michael Wilhoite - 17 ST tackles
2014 status: Exclusive Rights free agent

Anthony Dixon - 5 ST tackles
2014 status: Unrestricted free agent

Kassim Osgood - 12 ST tackles
2014 status: Unrestricted free agent

Demarcus Dobbs - 2 ST tackles
2014 status: Restricted free agent

Corey Lemonier - 6 ST tackles
2014 status: Signed through 2016 | Base: $505,000; Cap: $640,880

Dan Skuta - 7 ST tackles
2014 status: Signed through 2014 | Base: $1,300,000; Cap: $1,650,000

Kevin McDermott
2014 status: Signed through 2015 | Base: $495,000; Cap: $496,666

Darryl Morris - 7 ST tackles
2014 status: Signed through 2015 | Base/Cap: $495,000

I lumped the rest of these guys together as they were the top 11 special teams players, excluding Dawson and Lee. In 2011, the 49ers had strong special teams units across, the board, but there was some regression in 2012. The team addressed this very specifically with the additions of Kassim Osgood, Craig Dahl and Dan Skuta in free agency. The draft and undrafted free agency added Darryl Morris, Kevin McDermott and Corey Lemonier, all of whom made some solid contributions to the special teams units.

The question now is how the team will address potential roster changes. Kassim Osgood can potentially be brought back at the veteran's minimum with some help from the veteran minimum salary benefit. Wilhoite will be back on a veteran minimum deal. Anthony Dixon and Demarcus Dobbs have been among the most prominent special teams players, but could end up departing in free agency.

The good news is Brad Seely will have much of his squad back. We'll want to keep an eye out as the 49ers approach free agency. They will likely make some under the radar signings that have us shaking our heads....until we see these guys showing up on special teams. We saw it with guys like Bubba Ventrone, and even Craig Dahl. Of course, Dahl ended up as the primary backup free safety, much to our chagrin. We'll see what this March brings.

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