I long for the days of Phil Dawson as the Cleveland Browns kicker. Since leaving after the 2012 season where he made 93.5% of his field goals, the Browns have gone through a cavalcade of kickers. After having Dawson for 14 years, the Browns have not been able to find a sustainable kicker to keep for more than two years in a row. And, the problem at kicker may currently be in one of its worst positions since 2012.
Coming off last season, the Browns went into the offseason with Greg Joseph as their lone kicker on the roster. Joseph had an OK 2018 season where he made 85% of his field goals and 86.2% of his extra points. The performance did not earn him a guaranteed spot and that was shown by the front office. In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Browns drafted Austin Seibert of Oklahoma in the fifth round. It was a clear sign that the team wanted competition at the kicker position.
Now about that competition. The Browns battle at kicker has been less than promising to say the least. Some would say a dumpster fire of sorts. Throughout training camp, both kickers have struggled with Seibert looking completely lost at times. Some people, like myself, were waiting for the preseason games and moments where the pressure was on to really see how they perform. Let’s just say that so far it has not been great with Saturday’s game culminating with missed opportunities by both kickers.
Thus far through two preseason games, Joseph is 1 for 2 in field goals and 2 for 3 on extra points. Seibert is 0 for 1 in field goals and 4 for 4 on extra points. After the early struggles in training camp for Seibert, I had thought Joseph was the clear favorite for the kicker job. But, his performance in the two preseason games has shown that the problems that persisted last season are still here. Joseph struggled with long kicks in 2018 with all three of his misses coming in field goal attempts over 40 yards as he went 6 of 9 from over 40 yards. So far in the preseason, he is 1 for 2 from over 40 yards. The other weakness in Joseph’s game is his extra-point kicking. He missed 4 extra point field goals last season and had the second-lowest average in this area. In this year’s first two preseason games, he already has one miss. The problems that held me from trusting him fully last season are showing back up in the preseason.
In terms of Seibert, I just don’t trust rookie kickers. But, it is more than just that. He has struggled mightily in training camp. And his college career left a lot to be desired. He simply did not have a lot of attempts from over 40 yards and when he did, he was highly inconsistent. In his four-year career, he made just 10 of 18 field goals past 40 yards. You have to make those kinds of kicks if you want to stick around in the NFL.
So, the Browns are in a big quandary right now. Do they stay patient and see if either of the two young kickers develop and improve over the rest of the preseason? Or do the Browns start the process of looking for a new kicker? “Am I concerned about it? No, because we’re not playing for real yet, but I will be,” said Browns Head Coach Freddie Kitchens on Sunday about whether he is concerned about the kickers. While saying this, he did say that he and Browns General Manager John Dorsey have discussed bringing someone else to add to the competition.
But, in my opinion, it is time to ring the bell and address the kicker position. Both Joseph and Seibert have underwhelmed and have not shown even close enough success to earn the starting job. The Browns should look at every avenue to fix this position. The easiest route would be free agency. There is one kicker, Matt Bryant, who would come in immediately and be an instant upgrade over Joseph and Siebert. Bryant is coming off a season where he made 20 of 21 field goals. He could be signed tomorrow and be the Browns reliable starting kicker.
The other solution would be a more stretched out approach. The Browns could just wait and scour the trade market, while also waiting to cut down day to see if any solid kicker options come available after cuts. Nonetheless, the Browns need to make a move. They cannot wait and let this position drag out into the season. A game could come down to this position. I do not trust Joseph nor Seibert right now to be the man to put the game in their hands. It’s time to find another option.