Pro Bowl kicker Phil Dawson declined to reveal whether the Browns offered him a contract to return for a 15th season, but he made it clear he’ll always love Cleveland even though he's moving on.
“I wish Cleveland nothing but the best,” Dawson said during a conference call this afternoon. “They were some of the greatest years of my life. It’s been an absolute privilege to wear that orange helmet and represent the fans each and every week. So there is nothing but positive feelings in my mind. I look forward to seeing how the organization grows and develops and experiences success. That’s how I truly feel.”
Dawson said as free agency unfolded, the San Francisco 49ers came to the forefront. He signed a one-year deal with the 49ers reportedly worth $2.25 million on Tuesday and said goodbye to the Cleveland media today.
“My agent [Neil Cornrich] did a tremendous job,” Dawson said. “I told him, ‘When things start getting serious, call me. Let’s talk about it.’ And when that started taking place, it was all about the 49ers. I’m on cloud nine right now.
“Once [it] became obvious that there was an opportunity in San Francisco, that became my focus. And the goal at that point was, ‘Let’s make this work.’ So that’s pretty much how the whole thing went.”
Dawson, 39, acknowledged he wanted to join the 49ers because they’re coming off a Super Bowl appearance and are legitimate title contenders.
“I think any competitor wants to win,” Dawson said. … “Being on a team full of great players and a history of winning, that’s obviously an attractive thing to be a part of. That’s what every player in the NFL wants and I’m certainly no different.”
When pressed about whether the Browns extended an offer, Dawson said, “My focus is 100 percent on moving forward, and that’s just how I’m going to roll with this.”
Dawson leaves the Browns ranked second on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. Dawson, who was the only remaining member of the 1999 expansion team, finished his career in Cleveland with 1,271 points, trailing only Hall of Famer Lou Groza (1,349 points).
“He is Mr. Cleveland Brown, so it only seems right that he’s going to be the all-time leading scorer there,” Dawson said. “I have no regrets. I have nothing but positive feelings about the whole experience. Someday when I’m done playing, I’ll be able to reflect and remember and reminisce and kind of evaluate everything. I’m not at that point yet. But for Mr. Groza to remain the all-time leading scorer, that just seems right to me.”
Dawson believes his successor will encounter some bumps in the road but he’ll be rooting for whoever the Browns choose to replace him.
“I anticipate it’s probably going to be a tough situation for a young guy to step into,” Dawson said. “But I think the Browns will do a good job of not only selecting whoever it’s going to be, but working with him and being patient with him. I’m going to be pulling for him. He’s going to be one of the 32 guys that do what I do, and I wish him and the Browns nothing but the best.”
Dawson, after all, said he’ll always consider Cleveland a second home.
"You can’t just erase that amount of time from your history and your family’s history," Dawson said. "I leave Cleveland with nothing but positive feelings and love for the place, a lot of great experiences there, great relationships there. It’s a very special place, and I was fortunate to be there when I was."