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Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Browns turn kicker position into weakness

By Jamison Hensley

The Cleveland Browns are going with Billy Cundiff as their kicker, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The Browns have made several good moves to improve the team this year, but the new regime mishandled their kicking situation.

I didn't understand why the Browns didn't re-sign Pro Bowl kicker Phil Dawson in free agency. The two kickers (Shayne Graham and Brandon Bogotay) that the Browns brought in this offseason, and subsequently cut, were a downgrade from Dawson. And the same goes with Cundiff, who hasn't been the same since that crushing miss in the AFC Championship Game 21 months ago.

The new decision-makers for the Browns have turned a position of strength into one of weakness. The belief is the new regime wanted a fresh start, and Dawson represented one of the faces of the expansion-era Browns. But this team would have more stability with Dawson. The Browns have over $25 million in salary-cap space and only needed to give Dawson a one-year, $2.35 million contract (what he received from the San Francisco 49ers) to keep him. And, if the Browns were intent on parting ways with Dawson, they should've invested a draft pick in a young kicker.

What you like about the addition of Cundiff is his familiarity with the tricky weather of the AFC North. He kicked for the Browns for five games in 2009 and played for the Baltimore Ravens for 2 1/2 seasons. Cundiff, 33, was a Pro Bowl kicker in 2010 before his career derailed a year later.

After missing nine field goals in the 2011 regular season, Cundiff hooked a 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds that would have tied the AFC Championship Game. Cundiff was cut by the Ravens the next season, and he was released by the Washington Redskins in 2012 after missing five of his 12 field goal attempts (58.3 percent success rate). He is now on his fourth team in two seasons.

So, in the end, the Browns have gone from a Pro Bowl kicker in Dawson to a journeyman in Cundiff.