While general manager Andrew Berry’s main focus will be bolstering the defense by finding a bookend pass rusher to pair with Myles Garrett, creating much-needed depth in the secondary, and addressing the linebacker problem, the kicking woes in Cleveland have shown their ugly face since the days of Phil Dawson.
The Browns have tried everything. Drafting kickers, signing rookies, bringing in veterans—nothing has stuck. With the window to contend for a Super Bowl wide open, the Browns can no longer afford missed kicks in big spots.
Cody Parkey, who the team signed after the release of Austin Seibert after a Week 1 blowout to the Baltimore Ravens, will be a free agent this offseason.
Parkey, 29, was 19-of-22 on field goals this season. He was 43-of-47 on extra points. Despite a strong start to the year, Parkey’s 86.4 field goal percentage for 2020 put him in the middle of the pack of all kickers this season, according to NFL.com.
Berry’s Browns could always go the safe route of resigning Parkey to another one-year deal so they have a veteran kicker in-house. However, the team will likely bring in some sort of competition for training camp, whether it be an undrafted free agent or another veteran.
Youthful free-agent candidates such as Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo, 27, or Daniel Carlson, 26, were among the best kickers in the league last season, each kicking field goals with an accuracy higher than 94 percent. However, the Falcons and Raiders are unlikely to let their young, promising kickers walk in free agency.
After whiffing on draft picks in Zane Gonzalez (who is also ironically a free agent) and Austin Seibert, the Browns could still find a young, franchise kicker in free agency. Albeit a late-round pick, mortgaging draft capital into the kicking position just does not seem smart anymore, no matter how good the ball might sound coming off of a college kicker’s foot.
If the Browns are unable to land Koo or Carlson for cheaper than anticipated, look for them to invite one of these other veterans to camp to compete with Parkey. The Browns could bring in Cairo Santos, who was 93.8 percent on field goals last season in Chicago. 37-year-old Nick Folk was 92.9 percent on field goals in New England. Ryan Succop was 90.3 percent for the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
A reunion with Gonzalez is also possible, but unlikely. Joey Slye, Dustin Hopkins, Matt Prater, Michael Badgley, Stephen Gostowski, and Eddie Pineiro are also free agents who kicked in 2020 but were worse than Parkey statistically.
Expect the Browns to explore all avenues to get better at this position. An analytically-driven front office understands that the team cannot continue to leave points on the board due to missed kicks. While Parkey was not putrid in 2020-21, the Browns will bring in competition to find the best option to help them win now.
Regardless, Parkey is not going to cash the same five-year, $22 million extension that Miami’s Jason Sanders just inked this week. His rocky percentage mixed with a frequent knack for the upright and his “double doink” nickname will earn nothing more than another year to audition for the gig moving forward.