With the NFL free agency period underway and the draft around the corner, the Cleveland Browns are in the process of making the decisions that will shape the roster in 2013. One of those decisions involves kicker Phil Dawson, who has become a fan favorite and is essentially the only kicker the “new” Browns have ever known.
Dawson, 38, has been spectacular and only seems to be getting better with age. In 2012, he made 29 of the 31 field goals he tried, including all seven from 50 yards or longer. He was also rewarded with the first Pro Bowl trip of his career.
Clearly, Dawson is an excellent NFL kicker, but the time has come for the Browns to let him go. Many assumed he would sign with a contender, such as the San Francisco 49ers. That hasn’t happened yet, and Dawson’s many fans in Cleveland are still hoping the Browns will bring him back for 2013. But that could cost the team as much as $3 million — no kicker is worth that.
The reality is that NFL kickers are a dime a dozen. Dawson’s 93.5 percent field goal conversion rate in 2012 was excellent, but 12 kickers made at least 88 percent of their field goals last year.
Minnesota Vikings rookie Blair Walsh made 92 percent of his kicks and was 10-for-10 from 50-plus yards. Washington Redskins kicker Kai Forbath led the NFL in field goal percentage. Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker ranked sixth and won a Super Bowl. Forbath and Tucker were rookies, too, and all three made less than $500,000 in 2012.
Browns fans have become attached to Dawson. That’s understandable, considering Dawson has basically been the team’s offense for more than a decade. But with head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner set to take this young offense in a new and hopefully more successful direction, making a 38-year old kicker one the league’s highest-paid players at his position doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The Browns should let Dawson find his big payday elsewhere and sign a free agent kicker at a reasonable price. When it comes to NFL kickers, you actually don’t get what you pay for.