By Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal sports columnist
BEREA: Browns executives who make the football decisions inside 76 Lou Groza Blvd. are still searching for another “Toe.”
Saturday’s final roster cuts left the Browns without a kicker as they terminated the contract of 12-year veteran Shayne Graham and waived rookie Brandon Bogotay.
Graham, 35, who spent seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, sat out Thursday’s preseason finale at Chicago after his back stiffened during warm-ups. He went 3-for-3 in field-goal attempts in the first three exhibition games.
The unusual move sparked fans and observers to joke on Twitter whether Don Cockroft was available. Phil Dawson, the Browns kicker since 1999 who broke Groza’s record for career field goals and finished second behind him in career points, was let go during free agency and signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
“We gauged all the practices, the preseason games and weren’t completely satisfied,” Browns first-year coach Rob Chudzinski said of Graham and Bogotay. “Keeping some other guys and being flexible in that way we felt was the best move at this particular time.”
He stressed that the roster will be fluid over the next few days as the Browns prepare for next Sunday’s opener at home against the Miami Dolphins.
“This is our Aug. 31 roster, not necessarily our Sept. 8 roster,” he said.
Also waived were offensive lineman Aaron Adams, receivers David Nelson, Naaman Roosevelt and Tori Gurley, defensive backs Akeem Auguste and Jamoris Slaughter, linebackers Justin Staples, James-Michael Johnson and Justin Cole, defensive linemen Brian Sanford and Hall Davis and running back Jamaine Cook. Nelson was signed as a free agent in April after three productive seasons with the Buffalo Bills despite coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament on Sept. 9.
The only draft choices let go were Johnson, a fourth-round pick in 2012, and Slaughter, a sixth-round pick from Notre Dame. Slaughter’s departure left the Browns with four players from the 2013 draft. They had only five picks after trading two. Their first-round pick, outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, has been sidelined with a bruised lung.
The Browns will be scouring the waiver wire after keeping just four running backs, four receivers and eight defensive backs. They went heavy on the offensive line with 12.
“As far as the o-line and the d-line, those are the areas when you have injuries that can derail you the quickest, so being a little bit heavy there isn’t a problem,” Chudzinski said. Seven defensive linemen made the roster, with seventh-round pick Armonty Bryant the biggest surprise.
The Browns can sign eight players to the practice squad after noon today and Slaughter seems to be a candidate.
Chudzinski said the Browns haven’t closed the door on kickers who have been with the Browns before. That would include Billy Cundiff, released in August by the New York Jets, his 12th NFL team. Cundiff filled in admirably for Dawson in 2009 when Dawson missed five games with a right calf injury.
On Saturday the Jets cut kicker Dan Carpenter, who they had recently signed after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals.
“We have some possibilities, we may work some guys out in the next few days. We’ll have a kicker within the next few days. I’m not concerned,” Chudzinski said.
Asked about veterans who could be signed, Chudzinski refused to name names.
“There’s a number of veterans out there,” he said.
Chudzinski said it wasn’t unsettling to still be searching for Dawson’s replacement. He didn’t seem worried about the new kicker’s timing with long snapper Christian Yount and punter Spencer Lanning, the holder.
“It’s not,” Chudzinski said. “In places I’ve been before, we’ve had different kickers throughout the course of the season. It’s probably the one position where a guy can come in. It’s unique in that way. There’s not a lot of interaction with teammates and getting to learn systems. It’s pretty much an individualized skill. I’m not concerned about it. Between the pool that’s there and the guys that have been here, we’ll find the guy that we need.”
Chudzinski ruled out the possibility that Lanning, who kicked Thursday night in Chicago, would handle both jobs.
“No, although he did a nice job the other night. It’s good to know he’s a possible backup, but I would not expect that,” Chudzinski said.
Although next Sunday’s roster could look quite different, Chudzinski seemed pleased with the kind of team that had been put together.
“I’m happy with what we’ve done … I’m happy with the direction that we’re going,” he said. “We’re building for sustainable success.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.