Depends on who you talk to regarding the kicker position with the Browns, that situation is either good or it isn’t.
Some folks think veteran Cody Parkey is the answer and in fact doesn’t get enough accolades for the season he put in last year. Others, think the position is in dire need of an upgrade while other fans could care less about a kicker until he misses.
Kickers are important aspects for any offense. A lot has to go right for any kick to become successful.
For one, the snap has to be at the correct height, speed and without any wobble. Secondly, the offensive line has to block guys out who are trying to get a paw on the ball once it’s airborne. Then, the snap must be handled efficiently by the holder - which in today’s game is usually the punter. The holder then must place the ball at the correct angle the kicker has requested, spin the ball until the laces are pointed out, then place a single finger on the tip of the ball. Finally, the kicker must strike it correctly.
And all the while, any kicking play is basically nine offensive players against 11 defenders.
What is going on with the kicker position going forward? Is Parkey the guy for this 2021 roster? If not, are there options?
Kickers are in a different mindset than other rostered players. They have their own workout routines that do not include any contact, but must be ready to nail a kick at a moment’s notice.
Most kickers were former star soccer players who doubled in high school as the football squad’s kicker. Every kicker in the league kicks “soccer style” nowadays. Gone are the straight on style that players such as the Browns’ Lou “The Toe” Groza made famous. This is referred to as “toe ballers.”
The soccer style kick was invented by Pete Gogolak who played for the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League (AFL) and later the New York Football Giants. Growing up in Hungary, Gogolak and his brother Charlie grew up playing soccer like all the other European boys.
Their father was a doctor who relocated to the United States when his sons were teenagers. Pete attended a football game at his high school one Friday night with some new American friends and was appalled at how poorly their kicker was. He then approached the head coach who offered a tryout and subsequently made the team as the new kicker.
Gogolak’s style was rooted in the game of soccer. He approached the ball from the side and kicked the ball with his instep which connected his toes. The idea was the more force a kicker can apply to the ball the further it will go. This style also improved the average accuracy from 60% to over 80%.
From there, he attended Cornell as their kicker where a scout of the Bills saw him play. Gogolak was taken in the 12th round by Buffalo in the 1964 AFL draft but went undrafted in the NFL. More importantly, he was the very first “kicker only” player ever drafted, and after making the Bills roster, was the first “kicker only” roster player in the history of the game.
Browns’ Parkey situation
Right now, Parkey is an Unrestricted Free Agent. GM Andrew Berry may re-sign him, but hasn’t yet; and if March 17 rolls around - the day when the free agency period begins - any club may sign him.
Last season, Parkey went 19 of 22 field goal attempts with an 86.4 completion percentage. He was 10-11 on kicks of 40+ yards and did not attempt any kicks of 50-yards or further. Last year there were 34 kicks made from over 50-yards, just not from Parkey although he is 8-10 in his career with a long of 54 yards.
How did Parkey rank in the 2020 NFL stats?
- Total points scored: 100 - ranks 23rd
- Field goal attempts: 22 – ranks 25th
- Field goals made: 19 – ranks 22nd
- Field goal percentage: 86.4 - ranks 16th
- Season long: 46 yards – ranks 38th
- PAT attempts: 47 – ranks 18th
- PAT completions: 43 – ranks 12th
- PAT percentage: 89.6 – ranks 26th
- Kickoff attempts: 81- ranks 17th
- Kickoff total yards: 5,175 – ranks 16th
- Kickoff total touchbacks: 45 – ranks 20th
- Kickoff touchback percentage: 55.6 – ranks 31st
- Kickoff return average: 26.1 yards – ranks 11th
Now granted, a lot of a kicker’s stats are tied to his respective offense and their output. The Browns in 2020 were the 27th ranked passing team via total yards and the third ranked rushing club. Cleveland was the 12th highest scoring team.
Parkey went undrafted in 2014 after a stellar college career at Auburn where he scored 111 points in his senior season alone. After a Senior Bowl invite, he was signed by the Indianapolis Colts who already had one of the greatest kickers to play the game in Adam Vinatieri. He showed a lot of promise in training camp, and the Colts subsequently traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles for a backup running back.
With the Eagles, he flourished and set the NFL rookie scoring record (by six points) with 155 points scored. He was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team and also made the Pro Bowl. The following season he played in only three games and was 1-1 in field goal attempts before pulling a groin which landed him on IR.
Parkey then played for the Browns in 2016, Miami Dolphins (2017), Chicago Bears (2018), Tennessee Titans (2019) and signed again with Cleveland in September 2020 to which he landed on the practice squad.
At the time, the Browns had drafted Austin Seibert in the fifth-round of the 2019 NFL draft who was the starter in camp and the beginning of the season despite an average rookie year. But in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, Seibert missed his only field goal attempt plus shanked an extra point try. The next day, Seibert was waived. Parkey was elevated to the active roster for the next game just three days away on Thursday Night Football to a national audience against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Is Parkey really the kicker the Browns need? Remember in Week 14 in the home game against the Ravens when Cleveland was down 28-14 in the third quarter and then Kareem Hunt scored to make it a seven-point game? Except, Parkey missed the extra point. So, instead of being seven down, they were behind eight. Now, that PAT wasn’t the difference in the game; but it just epitomizes the stability they seem to be lacking when points are critical.
Parkey’s cap hit in 2020 with the Browns was $856,470.
Another option is already in-house.
Matt McCrane is an accurate kicker who can hit from over 50-yards out on a regular basis. He nailed a 54-yarder in his rookie year in a preseason game with the Arizona Cardinals. The starting kicker for the Cardinals at the time was Browns’ great Phil Dawson. McCrane kicked a 52-yarder in high school and later in the XFL.
If his name sounds familiar, his 29-yard field goal in overtime while with the Oakland Raiders in 2018 defeated the Browns 45-42 in Week 4 which dropped Cleveland to a 1-2-1 record.
McCrane is ranked Number 2 in Big-12 Conference history for career field goal percentage at 86.4% while at Kansas State. He was named All-Big 12 his senior season. He went undrafted in the 2018 NFL draft, then was with three teams his rookie year. He sat out 2019 until the XFL called to which he kicked for the New York Guardians in 2020. Despite that league only playing five games, McCrane was a perfect 10-10 in field goal attempts.
Cleveland signed him last year in late September to their practice squad where he remained all year. He has since been signed to a reserves/futures contract.
McCrane just could become the answer if Parkey is allowed to sign elsewhere. McCrane’s cap hit with the Browns is $780,000 on a two-year deal worth $1.675 million.
Find a replacement via free agency or the draft?
There are a number of highly-qualified free agents and draft picks the Browns could consider. Several names really stand out.
First up is free agent Younghoe Koo of the Atlanta Falcons. He attended Coach Zauner’s kicking combine that Browns punter Jamie Gillan went to. In the below link, Koo begins the “medium range” kicks of 40-plus yards at the 2:20 mark; which then slides into the “bonus field goals” at the 3:15 mark where he consistently hits kicks in the 50-yard range with ease and then nails a few from 60, 63 and yes, 65-yards.
This past season, Koo made a league-high 37 field goals out of 39 attempts for a 94.9 kicking percentage. Blessed with a very strong leg, he nailed all eight kicks over 50-yards with a long of 54. Koo does have touchback issues at just 42.4%. This year he made his first Pro Bowl.
Koo also has a knack for making successful onside kicks and has been labeled an “onside kick legend.” YouTube his onside kicks. His cap hit with the Falcons was $750,000.
There is the indoor/outdoor argument with Koo in that he kicked in a dome while with Atlanta. Cleveland is quite known for some very hard winds especially later in the season. How would he transfer that golden leg of his into the elements? However, this season, the Browns had only one horrific windy game, zero snow games and to be factual, there was very little rainy situations. Not that this will become a trend - it doesn’t. But name a kicker who is great in kicking with absurd windy conditions. Browns’ legend Phil Dawson even erected a flag so that he would know what was going on at all times during a game.
A close examination of Koo’s season reveals that he is untested outside. Except for early fall conditions in Green Bay, for the first seven weeks, all of the Falcons’ games were indoors. Koo’s lone miss was in Atlanta with a 48-yarder sent wide left. For the remainder of the schedule in outdoor environments, Koo kicked in Charlotte, Kansas City and Tampa which was 65 degrees at kickoff. The KC game was 49 degrees with a slight 8-MPH wind. With :14 seconds and behind by three points, Koo missed a 39-yard field goal.
But for the year, he was 5-5 against the Las Vegas Raiders, twice kicked four FG’s and was 3-3 in three games.
The year before, Koo went 23-26 on field goals, but his only outdoor games were at Charlotte, San Francisco and Tampa. So there is an argument of whether he is battle-tested or very comfortable in controlled environments.
So, what is the market for a weapon such as Koo? Two weeks ago the Miami Dolphins inked their kicker Jason Sanders to a five-year $22 million deal with $10 million in guarantees. That basically set the bar for Koo and his potential suitors. Is signing a consistent kicker with a long-range leg worth that money?
Another free agent possibility is Daniel Carlson from the Raiders. He also only missed two kicks and went 33-35 for a 94.3% kicking ratio. Carlson made all four of his kicks of 50-yards or greater. HIs cap number last season was just $750,000.
Both of Carlson’s misses were in outdoor games: at Cleveland and on the road against the New England Patriots. Browns’ fans may remember Carlson nailing three field goals in Week 8 that helped the Raiders win 16-6.
Yet another possibility is for the Browns to draft yet another kicker; not that the franchise hasn’t tried to solve the position in this manner lately. Besides taking Seibert in the fifth-round of the 2019 NFL draft, two years earlier they selected Zane Gonzalez in the seventh-round. Both were cut during their second respective seasons. The last good kicker Cleveland actually drafted was Don Cockroft in 1967.
Miami’s Jose Borregales was the Lou Groza Award winner for the nation’s best kicker in 2020. He had been a finalist for this award the past two seasons, so he is very consistent. He had a great Senior Bowl.
This past season he was 20-22 on field goal attempts for a 90.9% ratio. This included 2-2 on kicks over 50-yards with a long of 57-yards. Borregales was perfect on each PAT and has scored 378 points as a four-year starter in college.
The sixth-round would be an excellent spot to claim Borregales.
What should the Browns do at the kicker position?
This poll is closed
See if Matt McCrane is the answer
Draft yet another kicker
Sign a proven, quality kicker in free agency