Browns get to 53; Release both Kickers
AUG 31, 2013 7:49p ET
BEREA-- The Browns reached the 53-player limit Saturday by making 14 moves. They released 13 players and terminated the contract of kicker Shayne Graham.The roster isn't expected to be finalized as the team most likely will make waiver claims from players that were released by other teams. Receiver Josh Gordon was placed on the reserve/suspended list.
"A couple key points, number one, is our roster is fluid," Rob Chudzinski said at the Browns facility Saturday night. "At this point, we'll continue to look and update the roster over the next few days. This is our Aug. 31 roster, not necessarily our Sept. 8 roster.
"Secondly, our approach was to keep the best players, at this particular time, an example of that would be at kicker."
The players released besides the moves of Graham and Gordon were: David Nelson, Aaron Adams, Akeem Auguste, Brandon Bogotay, Jamaine Cook, Hall Davis, Tori Gurley, James-Michael Johnson, Naaman Roosevelt, Brian Sanford, Justin Staples, Justin Cole and Jamoris Slaughter.
"As far as the players that we released, I appreciate all the hard work they've done and put into it," Chudzinski said. "These are extremely tough decisions and close calls and at the end of the day did what we thought was the best for the team to build continued success."
With eight days before the season opener against the Dolphins, Chudzinski isn't worried about not having a kicker on the roster.
"We gauged all the practices and the preseason games and obviously, weren't completely satisfied," he said. "From a timing standpoint, keeping some other guys at other positions on the roster and being flexible in that way, we felt was the best move at this particular time. What we'll do is, we haven't completely closed the door completely on the kickers that we had. There are some possibilities that we might work some guys out in the next few days. We'll have a kicker within the next few days."
Chudzinski said by keeping no kicker, the Browns could hang on to another player until they sort it out. A couple of veteran free agents currently available are former Brown and Raven Billy Cundiff, as well as Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter.
"There are a number of veterans out there and we might work some of them out," Chudzinski said. "We'll evaluate the situation, overall and make a decision. We'll have a kicker, I'm not concerned."
Chudzinski was asked if he was bothered that the position is unsettled a week before the opener.
"It's not (unsettling)," he said. "In places I've been before and situations I've been in before, we've had different kickers throughout the course of the season. It's probably the one position where a guy could come in and it's unique in that way that there isn't a lot of interaction with teammates and getting to learn systems and all those things. It's pretty much an individualized skill. I'm not concerned about it. I feel between the pool (that's out there) and the guys that have been here, we'll find the guy that we need."
Punter Spencer Lanning filled in and made two-of-three field goal attempts in place of Graham and Bogotay Thursday night, including the game-winner against the Bears, but Chudzinski said he wouldn't be the kicker.
"Although he did a nice job the other night, it's good to know he's a possible back up, but I wouldn't expect that to be the case."
Phil Dawson was the kicker since 1999, so the uncertainty at the position is a first in a long time.
Besides the two kickers, the most noticeable move was the release Nelson, who was recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee. Nelson started training camp on the Active/PUP list, but was taken off the list on the second day of camp. However, Nelson suffered a bone bruise on the knee and missed the first three preseason games. He played in the preseason finale with the Bears and caught four passes for 54 yards, but dropped one pass and slipped on two other occasions. Nelson was signed as an undrafted free agent on April 8 after tearing his ACL in the season opening game of the 2012 season with the Jets. In 2011, he caught 61 passes for 658 yards with five touchdowns.
Chudzinski said that the with Gordon suspended, the Browns might add another wide receiver.
"We're looking at all of the positions now," he said. "The roster is fluid right now, at all positions."
Chudzinski felt the team couldn't wait any longer for Nelson.
"The biggest thing was the other guys and what they were able to do," he said. "You saw a guy like Josh Cooper really improve. The guys that were there making plays and the production that they had."
Chudzinski was asked if Nelson was healthy.
"He looked healthy and from all indications he said he was healthy and obviously, he got a lot of reps and got to play a lot the other night."
With Gordon on the suspended list for the first two games, the Browns are left with Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, Davone Bess and Cooper as the receivers for the first two games. Gordon doesn't count against the roster as one of the 53 players.
Slaughter was a sixth-round draft pick from Notre Dame, who missed the majority of his last season in college with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Slaughter missed part of training camp with a hamstring injury. He might be one of the eight candidates for the practice squad.
"Jamoris did miss a lot of time and we had other guys that played well."
The current make up of the roster has three quarterbacks, four running backs, three tight ends, four wide receivers and twelve offensive linemen on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, they currently have seven defensive linemen, ten linebackers and eight defensive backs. The remaining two players are specialist long snapper Christian Yount and punter Lanning.
Chudzinski defended the numbers on the offensive line.
"It's a little heavy but as far as the O-line and the D-line going into the season (injuries) can derail you the quickest in those areas," he said. "So being a little heavy there isn't a problem."
"Those are guys we want to keep, for sure, so you do have to have some answers in the meantime."
Chudzinski didn't give any projections on how close either Lauvao or Pinkston is to returning, but kept three rookie offensive linemen in Garrett Gilkey, Caylin Hauptmann and Martin Wallace. Gilkey was a seventh-round draft choice this year and Hauptmann and Wallace were undrafted free agents. On the defensive line, Armonty Bryant was a seventh-round draft choice this year.
The Browns didn't place any players on injured reserve, other than the two running backs who were placed there last week in running backs Dion Lewis and Montario Hardesty. Rookie offensive lineman Chris Faulk was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list.
The Browns currently have eight defensive backs, but only four cornerbacks. Chudzinski named Buster Skrine the starter at right cornerback opposite of Joe Haden, but said Chris Owens would play a lot.
"Right now, it's Buster Skrine, and again, Chris Owens has done a really good job this camp," he said. "We feel like we have two guys who can alternate and obviously, as much as people are in sub-personnel (packages) you need three anyhow. Both of those guys are going to be big parts of what we do."
Rookie third-round draft choice Leon McFadden is the fourth cornerback, but Johnson Bademosi played cornerback last season and could be used, if necessary.
Of the five draft choices, four made the team in Barkevious Mingo (1), McFadden (3), Bryant (7) and Gilkey (7).
The Browns had five undrafted free agents make the team thus far, including defensive back Josh Aubrey (Stephen F. Austin), linebacker Eric Martin (Nebraska), linebacker Paul Hazel (Western Michigan), Hauptmann (Florida International) and Wallace (Temple).
Josh (Aubrey) came out of nowhere and thinking back to spring, seeing him then on how much progress he has made," Chudzinski said. "He has really come a long way and done a nice job and gotten to the point where we trust him. He's gone into the game and shown very well."
Martin and Hazel were just signed after teams cut their rosters to 75 last week. Hazel was claimed from the Jaguars, while Martin was released from the Saints. Hazel played against the Bears, while Martin did not.
"We like they're pass rushing ability as outside linebackers," Chudzinski said. "They have flexibility to play defensive end also in sub situations."
Chudzinski said the Browns scouting department did a good job finding the free agents, but Chudzinski credited the players for stepping up.
"It's a tribute to the scouting department, but I think it's a tribute to (the players') attitudes of coming in and making the team," he said. "They've worked hard and again we wanted to have the type of environment we're trying to create here."
On Friday, the Browns released seven players to get to 68, including defensive back Abdul Kanneh, tight end Dan Gronkowski, offensive lineman Braxston Cave, wide receiver Mike Edwards, punter/kicker Colton Schmidt, running back Miguel Maysonet and defensive back Kent RIchardson.
Chudzinski said he's happy with the roster at present, even now there will be some changes.
"I'm happy with what we've done and what we've been able to put together with the direction we're going," Chudzinski said. "Again, we're building for sustainable success. We're just excited to get into the season now and play some teams and do this thing and I know the team feels that way, as well."
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