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Thursday, February 27, 2014
Chargers position outlook: Special teams

By Eric D. Williams

Although special teams coordinator Kevin Spencer has an experienced group returning for the San Diego Chargers in 2014, it could still use help in the return game.

Locks: None
Looking good: Nick Novak, Mike Scifres, Mike Windt
Free agents: Ronnie Brown, Lavelle Hawkins

The good: Novak had one of the best seasons in franchise history for a kicker, tying John Carney's team record for most made field goals in a season with 34. Novak also set a franchise record for accuracy with a 91.9 percent conversion rate (34 of 37) on field goals. Scifres was among the best punters in the NFL in placing the ball inside the 20-yard line, finishing with a league-best 30 of his 56 punts inside the 20. Windt avoided having his name mentioned during the year, which means no bad snaps and a full 16-game season played as a long snapper -- both good things.

The bad: Novak finished in the bottom of the league in touchbacks, with 19.6 percent of his kickoffs resulting in opposing teams getting the ball at the 20-yard line. The Chargers averaged just 22.1 yards per kick return, which was No. 23 in the league. San Diego's punt returner also is the team's No. 1 receiver in Keenan Allen. That's probably not a good combination.

The money: Novak is due to make $1.325 million in base salary in 2014, which seems reasonable for an above-average kicker in the league. Scifres is set to make $3.2 million in non-guaranteed base salary for the upcoming season -- that seems a little high for an above-average punter. For comparison sake, San Francisco punter Andy Lee has earned All-Pro honors four times and will make $1.9 million in base salary in 2014. Scifres is signed through 2016 and turns 34 this year. Windt is set to make $730,000 in base salary in 2014.

Draft priority: Low. All three specialists proved their worth and should return, but there's nothing wrong with adding competition during training camp. San Diego's most obvious need is adding someone with juice in the return game who can help flip field position and get extra first downs for the offense. Brown and Hawkins both returned kicks last season and neither player showed that they are someone that can routinely create big plays in the return game.