What Options do the Browns Have for Replacing Phil Dawson?

Phil Dawson stays classy till the end thanking Cleveland from his twitter account

How do you replace a Cleveland Browns Legend? Phil Dawson coming off the best season of his career signed a one year deal with the San Francisco 49ers worth $2.5 million, that’s more than a million less that he averaged in his previous two years with the Browns (3.5). He was the second most accurate kicker in the league last year, making 29-31 field goals and in the last two years he’s 14-15 from 50 yards or more. So, it won’t be easy.

Browns CEO Joe Banner had a similar situation in Philadelphia with PK David Akers who was coming off a Pro Bowl season just like Dawson. Banner decided it was time to let the Akers go and the Eagles picked Alex Henery in the fourth round from Nebraska. Henery made 51-58 field goal attempts his first two seasons there. Banner may opt to do it again this year in the draft so let’s breakdown his options:

Dustin Hopkins, K, Florida State (6-2, 193)

If you’re looking for the best kicker in the draft this is the guy. Hopkins is the 1st ACC player to score 400+ career points. He’s the FBS career leader in points scored by a kicker (466), 3rd among all players. He made 25-30 field goal attempts last year, of those 5-6 from 50+ yards. In his career he has made 79% of his field goals (93% if you count extra points). On his Pro-Day he did nothing but impress making kicks from 53 and 58 with ease. He is projected by some to be drafted in the late 4th to early 6th rounds.

Caleb Sturgis, K, Florida (5-10, 188)

Sturgis is up there with Hopkins and is just as good but has durability concerns missing most of the 2010 season and one game in 2011. This guy has a strong and accurate leg; last year he made 85.7 of his field goals (24-28) of those he was 3-3 on kicks of 50+ yards. In his career he has made 70 or 88 (79.5%) of his field goals and with 8 field goals of 50+ yards he is #1 in Florida History. Even though it was pouring rain on his Pro-Day he still managed to impress nailing kick after kick then highlighting the day with a 58 yard field goal.

Quinn Sharp, K, Oklahoma State (6-1, 189)

Sharp was a four-year starter at punter for the Cowboys but took over kicking duties as a Junior. He made 28-34 field goals last year and made 85% of his career kicks. He has a strong leg but his accuracy from long range needs to be worked on, last year he was 2-5 from 50+ yards. It’s always good to have a guy that can play both positions though. Sharp didn’t have the best Pro-Day but he did impress scouts making a 60 yard field goal to end the day.

Those are the best options in the draft, but if the Browns decide to go to the free agent market who’s available? That list includes: Nate Kaeding, Lawrence Tynes, David Akers, Jason Hanson, Steven Hauschka, Ryan Longwell, Shayne Graham and Olindo Mare. Of those only Hauschka (28) is under the age of 30. I see only 3 viable options here Lawrence Tynes, Steven Hauschka and Shayne Graham. Let’s break it down:

Lawrence Tynes, K, (Giants) Age: 34

He made $1.3 million last year and with the Giants signing Josh Brown; Tynes is left looking for a new home.  He made 33-39 field goals in 2012 but only 1-3 were from 50+ yards. Having experience with fighting the elements outdoors may make him a prime target for the browns.

Shayne Graham, K, (Texans) Age: 35

Graham only made $925k last year, which makes him the cheapest option of the three. He went 31-38 last year with 4-9 from 50+ yards. Graham played six years for the Bengals so he is no stranger to First Energy Stadium.

Steven Hauschka, K, (Seahawks) Age: 28

He made $1.26 million last year and is the youngest of all free agent options. Hauschka went 24-27 in 2012 only making 1-4 from 50+ yards. In the last two seasons he has only made 3-8 from beyond 50 yards which makes you worry in long game winning chance. Like Tynes he has experience in the elements playing in Baltimore, Denver and Seattle.

It’s hard to replace a guy that was as dependable as Phil Dawson was. When he went on for a field goal try you could look away in confidence that he would make it.  I feel bad for anyone replacing his shoes; the first miss he makes will not go well for the fans, especially if he misses a game-winner.

Looking at Banners history, one would think he’s going to draft a kicker. I look for the Browns to draft Sturgis or Hopkins in the 5th round, if they are both off the board by then I think they’ll look at one of these free agents. I guess I should note that the Browns flew in Youtube star Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland but it is highly doubtful they’ll sign him.


Is Dee Milliner to the Browns a No-brainer?


Put yourself in Michael Lombardi’s shoes (or should I say Banner?) for a second, you have the 6th overall pick in the 2013 draft. You have now filled some gaping holes on your defense through free agency. What position do you pick in the first round?

The additions of LB Paul Kruger, LB Quentin Groves have made the OLB spots in this 3-4 scheme solid. There’s a lot LBs on this roster now; D’Qwell Jackson, Chris Gocong, Emmanuel Acho, Jabaal Sheard, James-Michael Johnson, Tank Carder, LJ Fort and Craig Robertson. The question is how will they all fit? I believe Gocong and Johnson will be fighting for that second MLB spot next to Jackson. Then Sheard and Groves will battle for the opposite side of Kruger.

Now you look at the Defensive Line, They are stacked at DT with Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Huges and Billy Winn. Defensive End became thin after they released Frostee Rucker, but just as they did at LB; the Browns signed DL Desmond Bryant who is said to play DE. It would be my guess that they might try to fit Taylor and Rubin on the line next to Bryant somehow. It should be noted that Billy Winn played some DE in a 3-4 system at Boise State.

There are some intriguing options at DE/OLB for the 6th pick in the draft:

Ziggy Ansah (BYU) is a guy, who has only played football for two years now. His junior year only had 10 tackles (mainly on special teams). Coming into his senior year he didn’t even have a scholarship, but that didn’t stop him from destroying the offense. He recorded 62 total tackles, 13 going for a loss, including 4.5 sacks. This is a guy who is extremely versatile and has played every spot on the DL and OLB. He’s very raw and needs some good coaching to improve, you’re not going to get a lot of fancy swim moves out of this guy but he has shown great improvement and physical ability.

Dion Jordan (Oregon) is a physical specimen, he came to Oregon as a WR then switched to TE and finally to the OLB/DE position. He has said that he wants to be on an NFL team that has a 3-4 defensive system as an OLB. The guy can cover a RB in the flat, and has some skill in man coverage.  No one can question his toughness when you have guys not doing the combine drills because of a bruised hip, Jordan put off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder so he could do the drills at the combine. Even with the injury he amazed scouts during each position drill.

There really isn’t a OLB/DE guy in this range that stand out. Jordan and Ansah seem to fit DC Ray Horton’s system a little better than others, but there is not clear favorite to separate them from the top 10 picks. Another quick guy to mention is: Jarvis Jones (Georgia) He’s a bit of a risk at this position, with questions about his spinal stenosis condition (narrowing of the spinal canal at the neck) it’s hard to love the guy. He did quite well at Georgia though and may be a possibility.

Browns CEO Joe Banner did his best to shoot down any transaction rumors.  When asked about possibly trading Taylor or Rubin, Banner said, “Our purpose has been to put together a really strong unit, have some depth so we can rotate and so if we have any injuries the line will still be one of the primary assets of the team. That’s what we feel like we’re achieving. We’re not looking to be trading anybody.”

The position with most need that the Browns have yet to improve on in Free Agency is CB. After Joe Haden who’s on the roster? Well, that would be: Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade, Johnson Bademosi, Tashaun Gipson, Prince Miller and Kent Richardson.

Your first reaction to reading the list is probably: “oh god Buster Skrine is our #2 CB” mine sure as hell is. An interesting transaction is former Arena Football League star Kent Richardson; he was named the AFL Defensive Back of the Year with the Philadelphia Soul. I don’t see him as any kind of starter but adds some depth in multiple DB formations.

There’s only one CB that is worthy at pick #6 and that’s if he drops past the top 5:

Dee Milliner (Alabama) this is a guy who I could see become better than Joe Haden later in his career. At Alabama they would let him control a side of the field by himself most of the time and he didn’t disappoint having 20 passes defended second most in FBS. Milliner can flat out fly getting the second best 40-yd dash time out of all CBs with a 4.37. He has the speed and awareness to not get beat deep. His ability in zone coverage is phenomenal, he is a true shutdown corner back and has been compared to Bears Charles Tillman. Milliner is the best player in this draft and if I’m Lombardi, I not only pick him at six I think about trading up for a guy who is number one on my board.

Just picture Joe Haden and Dee Milliner as you’re starting cornerbacks, it would be like the old days with Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield (Browns 1980’s) and if you don’t know who they are look them up on youtube. While I believe pass rushing is an important priority for the Browns this just makes too much sense to me.

With the loss of Detroit’s Cliff Avril I would imagine the Lions might go for a pass rusher with their fifth overall pick, but if they see what I see in Dee Milliner than I see no way they him up. That’s if he even reaches it past the top four.

If I’m the Browns, I’m still looking to sign a Safety, Cornerback, Tightend, and Guard through free agency. Banner has stated that there will be no more “big name” signings but they still need to add depth.

If Dee Milliner is taken off the board before Cleveland’s pick I would strongly think about trading down a few spots and still being able to get one of the OLB/DE with the same value.