Kickers are most certainly an afterthought in the NFL, as there are often more than a few that bounce around from team-to-team throughout the course of every season. Most teams consider their kickers to be expendable. Former Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson was the rare exception to this for 14 years, as Dawson had been a member of the Browns since their reboot in 1999.
Obviously, few consistencies have existed for the suffering franchise during this 14-year run. In fact, the single consistency that did exist until this past offseason was the employment of Phil Dawson as the team’s kicker. For the Browns, the kicker position was as stable as the quarterback position was (and still is) unstable during Dawson’s tenure. That is no longer the case, as Dawson, the lone remaining member of the original 1999 Cleveland Browns, signed with the Super Bowl runner-up 49ers in March.
Dawson built quite a legacy in Cleveland, despite the consistently lackluster performances of his teammates during his time spent there. Dawson ranks second all-time in points scored for the Browns franchise, trailing only Hall of Famer Lou Groza. He currently ranks as the 9th-most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL, having made 84 percent of his field goals. He has only seemed to get better with age, as Dawson produced arguably his best season yet in 2012 (Dawson made 29 of 31 field goal attempts). Despite all of this, the Browns allowed Dawson, a fan favorite, to sign elsewhere this offseason.
So who is going to kick for the Browns in 2013? The answer is not as simple as it had been for the past 14 years. Currently, the Browns have two kickers on the roster: Shayne Graham and Brandon Bogotay.
Veteran kicker Shayne Graham should be the front-runner to replace Phil Dawson in 2013. (Photo credit: Joshua Gunter/The Plain Dealer)
Graham, a 12-year veteran, spent seven productive seasons (2003-2009) with the Cincinnati Bengals, but has since bounced around the league. Last season with the Houston Texans, Graham posted very respectable numbers, making 31 of 38 field goal attempts (81.6 %) during the regular season and all six of his attempts during the postseason.
Bogotay, who has never appeared in an NFL game, backed up current Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh while attending the University of Georgia from 2009-2011. His primary duty was to handle kickoffs, where eight of his 29 career kickoffs went for touchbacks. Walsh handled the majority of field goal duties, though Bogotay did make all seven of his extra-point attempts, as well as one of two field goal attempts, during his collegiate career.
Although the two are currently engaged in a position battle, various reports have stated that there is a possibility that the Browns may keep both kickers on board, as the coaching staff has been impressed with both Graham’s accuracy and Bogotay’s power. If that were the case, the likely scenario would be that Graham would handle regualr placekicking duties and Bogotay would handle kickoff duties, though it would also be likely that the Browns would send Bogotay out for long-distance field goal attempts.
If I had to choose between the two, I would definitely prefer Graham to win the job. Bogotay seems like a huge gamble, given his inexperience at both the professional and collegiate levels. Graham provided the Texans with a solid kicking leg last season, and I think he could do the same for the Browns in 2013.
Obviously, neither one is Phil Dawson. But, between the two, Graham comes closest.