Today, we begin covering the special teams units on thein anticipation for training camp, starting with the kickers and punters. The same guys from last year are returning, and they face very little competition.
1. BILLY CUNDIFF - STARTING KICKER
Last offseason, the Browns probably handled the team's kicker situation as poorly as a team could handle it. They weren't able to re-sign long-time fan favorite Phil Dawson, and then they had a training camp competition between veteran Shayne Graham and youngster Brandon Bogotay. When final cuts were made...neither kicker made the roster. The team signed veteran Billy Cundiff just prior to Week 1, and he remained the team's kicker all season.
What salvaged the situation was that Cundiff had another mini-resurgence to his career. He wasn't Pro Bowl caliber, but he did an adequate job, connecting on 21-of-26 field goals (80%), which was the second best year he's had in terms of accuracy. He also hit 2-of-4 field goals from beyond 50 yards, when he'd only made a total of 5 50+ yard kicks from 2002-2012.
Where Cundiff becomes an asset is on kickoff returns. 64.6% of his kickoffs went for touchbacks in 2013, good for 5th best in the NFL. Cundiff is pretty much guaranteed a job in the sense that he has very little competition in camp, but it's also a situation where if he struggles and another team cuts a good kicker (from a kicking competition of their own), we could see a change in Week 1 or later in the season.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
2. SPENCER LANNING - STARTING PUNTER
In terms of job security, Spencer Lanning is pretty much in the same boat as Cundiff: due to a lack of competition, he pretty much walks into this year's training camp as the undisputed lead punter, even if he didn't have a great year in 2013.
Lanning won the training camp competition last year for the Browns and was the team's punter for all 16 games. His net average on punts was just 37.9 yards, which ranked 28th in the NFL. He did have 28 punts downed inside the 20, which ranked 11th in the NFL, but you also have to remember that the number of punts a team has is often a byproduct of how quickly their offense went three-and-out. Lanning's job is safe, unless the Browns find somebody better from a training camp cut.
Final Roster Odds: 95%
3. JAKE ROGERS - BACKUP KICKER & PUNTER
Two birds, one stone. The Browns did not have a backup kicker or backup punter on the roster to give Billy Cundiff and Spencer Lanning some rest, so they signed Jake Rogers in early June to back up both of them.
Rogers was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Cincinnati in 2011. Over the past couple of years, he's been with the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Redskins, but has not seen action during the regular season. The Browns listed him as a kicker/punter upon signing him, and he's done both in the preseason.
Given how many teams Rogers has been on without landing on a 53-man roster, it's hard to imagine him unseating either Cundiff or Lanning in camp. He's the very definition of a "camp body" at this point.
Final Roster Odds: <1%
Next up, we'll look at long snapper, the return game, and the coverage units on special teams. Our poll today asks whether you think Cundiff and Lanning will last the entire season.