Twenty-two combined seasons in Orange and Brown. Four Pro Bowls. Two fan favorites. Both free agents.
Cleveland fans love to hold on to their sports heroes. Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson have been consistently the best things about Cleveland Browns football since the team returned in 1999.
Josh Cribbs walked on the team as an undrafted free agent after playing QB for Kent State in 2005. His counterpart from the University of Akron Charlie Frye, was a third round pick of the Browns that same year. Frye would start 18 games for the Browns before being traded to Seattle in 2007.
Phil Dawson is another undrafted player that found a home with the Browns after trying to stick with the Raiders and Patriots. Dawson is the only player that has been with the team from the return in 1999.
Both are fan favorites. Whether it was the hard work they put in to become top players at their positions or the way they embraced Cleveland and it’s fans, both are loved and would be missed if they weren’t with the team next year.
Josh Cribbs has said he would give a hometown discount in order to finish his career with the Browns. That still might not be enough for the new management to give him a contract. Vic Carucci hit the nail on the head with Cribbs-
“As noble as it might have been for Cribbs to say in the media he would be willing to take a pay cut to remain with the Browns, it doesn’t change the fact that the team’s decision-makers need to believe he holds enough value to maintain a valuable roster spot.”
Cribbs may be a legend when it comes to returning kicks, but is he the same returner? And is the return game even the same with the new rules? The fact remains Travis Benjamin is probably a better option than Cribbs as a returner. As a wide receiver, Cribbs isn’t a starter in the NFL. Could a creative coach find ways to get Cribbs the ball and be effective? At one time that was certainly true. Now? Not sure. The fact remains NFL roster spots are a big deal. If the Browns are to give one of those spots to Cribbs, he has to give them something that they can’t get from another player. Does Josh give them that?
After 14 seasons, Dawson is on top of his game. Not many players earn their first Pro Bowl birth at age 38. Obviously he plays a position that allows players to perform at a high level for a longer time. Dawson isn’t just a prolific kicker, he’s a prolific kicker in a stadium that isn’t easy to kick in.
Unfortunately, the Browns have already used the franchise tag on Dawson twice, which would mean they would have to pay him QB money to do so again. Will the Browns offer Dawson a multi-year deal? How much will Dawson ask for?
There is a good chance that the Browns will pass on both players.
Perhaps the fallout from not signing these two fan favorites won’t be as big as it would have been in the past. Browns fans realize the situation for the most part, and know that this new organization has no ties or real attachment to them.
If the Browns do open the wallet a little this off season and bring in a couple players the fans are excited about, it would certainly smooth over losing a couple of fan favorite special teamers.