CLEVELAND: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said Thursday night during the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards that the organization has yet to decide how hard it will push, if at all, to re-sign kicker Phil Dawson and special-teams ace Josh Cribbs.
With new coach Rob Chudzinski and new vice president of player personnel Mike Lombardi still settling in and assembling a staff, Haslam said “those decisions will be made over the next few weeks.”
Chudzinski said he has yet to get everyone together and discuss the team’s potential free agents. He knows Dawson and Cribbs from his previous time coaching in Cleveland.
“They’ve obviously had success,” Chudzinski said. “We’ll just have to wait and see and see how everything fits together on that.”
Haslam, though, praised Dawson and Cribbs, the longest tenured members of the Browns. Both of them will play in the Pro Bowl on Sunday and are scheduled to become free agents at 4 p.m. March 12.
Last month, Dawson was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time. He also was nominated for the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission’s Professional Athlete of the Year award, but Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving won. Dawson made 29-of-31 field goals (93.5 percent) with one blocked last season.
“Phil’s a great player and a great person,” said Haslam, who presented a lifetime achievement award to Browns great and radio analyst Doug Dieken. “That’s the kind of people we want here in Cleveland, people who are great on and off the field, and Phil’s that kind of guy.”
Cribbs ranked sixth among punt returners (12.0 average) and tied for fourth among kick returners (27. 4 average) last season.
“I don’t know if there’s a tougher player in the NFL than Cribbsy,” Haslam said. “Just like everybody else, we’ll have to take a look at where Josh is and where he fits into our plans. … He’s a quality guy. He works his tail off. I don’t know anybody that’s ever played the game that’s been as good at returning and covering kicks as Cribbsy is. He’s a great player, a great athlete and as tough as they come.”
Haslam expects the Browns to use plenty of the 3-4 scheme defensive coordinator Ray Horton employed the past two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
“Probably we’ll switch to the 3-4 defense,” Haslam said. “I think it’ll be an attacking defense.”
Chudzinski reiterated the defense will feature 3-4 and 4-3 alignments.
“We’re going to do both,” he said. “We’re going to have packages where we do both of those.”
The Browns hired Jon Embree as their tight ends coach and Brian Baker as their outside linebackers coach.
Embree, 47, spent the past two seasons as the head coach at the University of Colorado and was fired in November after compiling a record of 4-21. The bulk of his experience is in the college ranks, though he served as a tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins in 2010 and the Kansas City Chiefs from 2006-08.
Baker, 50, spent the past two seasons as the defensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He has 17 seasons of NFL coaching experience. He has primarily coached defensive line throughout his career, but he served as the Minnesota Vikings’ linebackers coach from 2002-03.
The Browns also hired Bobby Babich, 29, as their assistant secondary coach, the Charlotte Observer reported. Babich, who was a graduate assistant coach for Kent State University in 2006, served as a defensive assistant for the Carolina Panthers last season.
Chudzinski presented a courage award to Notre Dame Academy freshman soccer player Molly Miller, a cancer survivor. Her father, P.J. Miller, died in 2009 after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was the best man in Chudzinski’s wedding. … Chudzinski said Browns scouts are in Mobile, Ala., this week for the Senior Bowl. He said he didn’t go because he’s been too busy hiring coaches.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.