We are five days in to free agency, and the status for kicker Phil Dawson, return specialist Joshua Cribbs, and punter Reggie Hodges has yet to change: all of them are unrestricted free agents. The only pure special teamer who was brought back was long snapper Christian Yount, but that was a no-brainer considering he will be making the minimum salary. You could also throw safety Ray Ventrone into the mix and say that there hasn't been any news on him; Ventrone is also an unrestricted free agent.
Maybe this is a sign that teams do not place a high priority on special teamers in free agency. Does focusing on offense and defense really take precedence for all 32 teams, though? I would have thought that a team like the 49ers -- who did have to replace some of their own pieces -- would jump at the opportunity to pursue Dawson after releasing veteran David Akers.
For all we know, maybe they have been hot in the pursuit of Dawson behind-the-scenes. In a time when rumors surface about pretty much everyone, though, we have not heard a single peep about Dawson -- not from him, not from his agent, not from the Browns, and not from any other team in the NFL. When Paul Kruger held his opening press conference on Wednesday, one local reporter did actually ask Browns CEO Joe Banner about bringing Dawson back, to which Banner responded, "I am still not going to answer that question." Hmmm.
It's not like Dawson is the only good kicker on the free agent market, which could mean that he'll ultimately return to Cleveland if nobody else is going to offer him a multi-year deal. The other good kickers available include the Lions' Jason Hansen, the Giants' Lawrence Tynes, the Seahawks' Steven Hauschka, the Texans' Shayne Graham, along with others. Not that he cares about this, but if Banner does end up bringing Dawson back, there are a lot of fans who will chalk up free agency as a major win for that alone.
Similar to Dawson, nothing has really been said about Hodges. Unlike Dawson, though, nobody really expected there to be a market for Hodges, who really struggled during the 2012 campaign. Cleveland signed punter Spencer Lanning a couple of weeks ago; he was competing with Hodges in training camp last year. If nobody else takes a flier on Cleveland, Hodges could probably be brought back for cheap to see how he does in training camp.
The one person whose name has been thrown a lot is Cribbs. Much of the noise stemmed from Cribbs himself, who posted a "goodbye" to Cleveland fans on his Instagram account. On top of that, several days ago, Mary Kay Cabot and other sources said that New England and Arizona were showing interest in him. The Patriots signed Leon Washington, who will likely be their return man.
Cabot later reported that Cribbs-to-Arizona was basically a done deal, but then other reports surfaced that the two sides really weren't even close on a deal yet. It has been several days since then, and nothing new has surfaced. Is there a chance Cribbs could end up coming back to Cleveland after all? No other teams may be willing to offer him a contract full of crazy incentives like Mike Holmgren once did.
What do you guys think? Should Cleveland still make an effort to bring back, one, two, or all three of these guys, or are you content with just trying out some youngsters? In a way, you could view anyone as being a good replacement for Hodges, and Travis Benjamin/Buster Skrine being a tandem that could replace Cribbs on punt returns and kickoffs.