We continue our training camp preview on the Cleveland Browns by looking at the special teams units. In Part 1, we’ll focus on the kicker, punter, and long snapper positions. In Part 2, we’ll look at return man candidates and special teams aces.
1. Cody Parkey - Veteran Kicker
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 190 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 4 years | College: Auburn
Last year, the Browns’ entire training camp competition was between Travis Coons and Patrick Murray. Although Coons was accurate in 2015, there were concerns about his distance. When he tried to work on that for 2016, his accuracy went down, so Murray won the job. During practice leading up to Week 3, Murray suffered a knee injury. The Browns placed him on injured reserve and signed Parkey off the street.
Parkey had some decent credentials. An undrafted rookie in 2014, he made the Philadelphia Eagles roster and became a Pro Bowler with a 32-of-36 (88.9%) season. However, he suffered a season-ending groin injury three weeks into the 2015 season, and he lost out in a competition with Caleb Sturgis in 2016. Things didn't exactly go great in Parkey's debut for the Browns. In fact, he had a nightmare game, going 3-of-6 (50%) against Miami with misses from 41, 42, and 46 yards. The last miss came when the game was tied with 0:04 left in regulation; if he would’ve made that, Cleveland fans and players could’ve avoided months of stress over a possible 0-16 season (but they may have also missed out on Myles Garrett).
Fortunately, Parkey ended up going 20-of-25 (80%) for the season, salvaging his reputation. He did have a decent excuse for his first game blunders, as he was signed with literally no practice time with the club due to how late Murray’s injury occurred. Parkey only attempted one field goal beyond 50 yards in 2016 and he made it; he is now 5-of-5 (100%) in his career from 50+ yards. He can’t let his guard down in camp, though, because if his competition is ever on par with him, the team will probably opt to go with their rookie.
Final Roster Odds: 60%
2. Zane Gonzalez - Rookie Kicker
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 202 lbs | Age: 22
Experience: Rookie | College: Arizona State
Gonzalez was one of the Browns’ seventh-round draft picks this year. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler had Gonzalez as his top-ranked kicker, and projected him to be a 5th round pick. Gonzalez had also had a pre-draft workout with Cleveland. Although Cody Parkey did well to close out last year, he was the only special teamer who was not extended this offseason, so the drafting of Gonzalez signals a full-blown kicker competition between the two in training camp.
Besides going 7-of-9 on 50+ yard field goals last season in college, Gonzalez had a very strong Pro Day, where a report said the following:
- Height and length of his kicks is impressive. NFL scouts in attendance commented to each other about his big leg.
- Accurate field goals went over things they shouldn't have and hit things at distance they shouldn't have be able to hit.
Former NFL kicker Jay Feely feels Gonzalez is a better prospect than the kicker the Buccaneers took in the second round last year:
It's about time ASU's Zane Gonzalez got drafted. @Browns got a very talented kicker. I like Gonzalez better than Aguayo last yr— Jay Feely (@jayfeely) April 29, 2017
Final Roster Odds: 40%
1. Britton Colquitt - Veteran Punter
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 205 lbs | Age: 32
Experience: 8 years | College: Tennessee
The Browns traded veteran P Andy Lee to the Carolina Panthers during the preseason last year for a fourth round pick in 2018. Cleveland tried out two young punters after the trade, but were not content with either. When the Denver Broncos parted ways with their own veteran punter, Colquitt, Cleveland jumped on him.
Despite not playing in Mile High (as his home stadium) for the first time in his career, Colquitt’s production did not suffer. He had an average of 45.3 yards per punt and a net average of 40.3 yards per punt. Both figures were his best since 2012. Overall, Colquitt was a stable punter for Cleveland, ranking around the middle of the NFL.
The Browns signed Colquitt to a 4-year, $11.2 million contract this offseason, which includes $3.15 million guaranteed. That makes him the 12th-highest paid punter in the NFL, which matches his productivity. It’ll be good not to have to worry about the punter position as this otherwise-youthful team takes shape.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
1. Charley Hughlett - Veteran Long Snapper
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 248 lbs | Age: 27
Experience: 3 years | College: Central Florida
Hughlett has been the Browns’ long-snapper since 2015, and he’s been picture perfect from what I could recall over the past two seasons. Cleveland liked him enough to offer him a 6-year contract extension this offseason, which his agent touted would make him “the highest-paid long snapper in the NFL.”
That statement is true in overall value, because no one else has handed out a deal that lasts that long. But, in terms of value, imagine one team spends $1.00 on someone, and the Browns then spend $1.01 on Hughlett. Yes, technically that makes Hughlett the highest-paid long snapper, but the position itself is paid on peanuts and the difference in value is almost negligible. Plus, only the first year of his contract is guaranteed, so if he ever gets the yips (like Ryan Pontbriand and Christian Yount have gotten before him), the team can cut bait in the future with no dead cap attached to him.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
Here is your poll question for Part 1:
Who will win the kicking competition for the Browns?
This poll is closed
Cody Parkey, no doubt
Cody Parkey, but I’m on the fence
Zane Gonzalez, no doubt
Zane Gonzalez, but I’m on the fence