Today, we begin covering the special teams units on the Cleveland Browns in anticipation for training camp, starting with the kickers. The Browns are trying to find a new kicker for the first time since 1999 after the departure of Phil Dawson, and the competition boils down to a veteran vs. a rookie.
1. SHAYNE GRAHAM - FAVORITE TO REPLACE PHIL DAWSON
After the Browns did not re-sign Phil Dawson this offseason, I thought for sure they would be targeting a youngster as his replacement in 2013, and that's how things looked when Brandon Bogotay joined the roster. Then, just prior to the draft, the Browns signed 35-year-old Shayne Graham to a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum. That led to questions about whether it was Dawson, and not the Browns, who did not want to make a deal happen to keep the fan favorite in Cleveland for another year.
In terms of his credentials, if you can't have a guy of Dawson's caliber, Graham isn't too shabby. He has been a pretty reliable kicker over the years, including last season when he connected on 31-of-38 field goals for the Houston Texans. He wasn't as sharp as Dawson from long distance, though; he was 4-of-9 from beyond 50 yards in 2012, and is under 50% from that range in his career. While distance may not be his specialty, he is accurate from shorter ranges and has the veteran experience to not be rattled in pressure situations.
Graham also looks like Brandon Weeden when their helmets are off, so that's kind of a bonus.
Final Roster Odds: 51%
2. BRANDON BOGOTAY - COMPETING TO REPLACE PHIL DAWSON
There is an interesting backstory for Brandon Bogotay. He played for the University of Georgia from 2009 to 2011, but he didn't kick very much for them. As a backup to Blair Walsh, he was 0-of-1 in 2010, and 1-of-2 in 2011. He handled kickoff duties here and there for them, but that was pretty much it.
It does not sound like Bogotay was invited to an NFL training camp last year, but he did enough to impress the Browns in a tryout a few months ago to beat out a couple of other kickers who were being worked out.
The advantage for Bogotay his his strong leg: he was reportedly connecting on field goals from beyond 50 yards in the offseason programs with ease. When the pressure was on in simulated action, it sounded like he was connecting at a fairly accurate rate too. If he keeps this up, this will be a true, down-to-the-wire kicking competition that could be determined based on how well Bogotay does in the preseason games. Who knows: maybe he'll end up being this year's Justin Tucker.
Final Roster Odds: 51%
I'm disappointed that we lost Phil Dawson, but that doesn't mean 2013 will be a total wash at the kicker position for Cleveland. We'll either have a veteran kicker as a one-year holdover, or a youngster who seems to have a powerful leg. The reason I have each kicker at 51% is because I think there's a slight change we'll keep two kickers. Our poll asks which kicker you think will prevail as the primary guy.