For the first time since the Browns returned to Cleveland as an expansion franchise in 1999 the team will be looking for a new place kicker.
The candidates include former Houston Texans kicker Shayne Graham and free agent pickup Brandon Bogotay to replace the departed Phil Dawson, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March.
However, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, the Browns may elect to keep both Graham and Bogotay to fulfill the team’s kicking duties this fall.
The two kickers have decidedly different skill-sets. As Hensley notes, Graham has converted 93.4-percent of his attempts from inside 40 yards in his career but has struggled from long-range. Last year with Houston Graham converted just 11 of 18 chances from beyond 40 yards.
Bogotay has the much stronger leg of the pair though he is inexperienced in-game situations as a field goal kicker. He attempted just three field goals during his college career at Georgia while stuck behind Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh on the depth chart. Instead, Bogotay handled kickoff duties at Georgia before being signed by the Browns this offseason.
Graham converted just 28 kickoffs for touchbacks last season in Houston, which ranked 22nd in the league. The Browns could keep Graham for short field goals while Bogotay could be called upon to handle kickoffs and long distance attempts
Head coach Rob Chudzinski said it’s still too early to declare a leader in the battle for the job.
“It’s been close. It’s been back and forth,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously, you get into the preseason and those games and that will be a very important part of the process of the evaluation. But it’s ongoing all the way through.”
It’s a rarity in the league now to carry two kickers now that kickoffs take place from the 35-yard line instead of the 30-yard line. Doing so also comes at the expense of another player at another position on the roster. Bogotay will have to prove that his inexperience isn’t a liability either as he hopes to earn one of the Browns’ 53 roster spots come the end of training camp.