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 Thursday during a conference call he requested with the local media. “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 became an unrestricted free agent March 12, and as the process unfolded, he said the San Francisco 49ers came to the forefront. Dawson joined the 49ers Tuesday by signing a one-year deal reportedly worth $2.25 million.
“My agent [Neil Cornrich] did a tremendous job,” said Dawson, who made 29-of-31 field goals last season and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. “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 that he wanted to join the 49ers because they’re coming off a Super Bowl appearance and are considered legitimate contenders. Dawson had been with the Browns since their expansion season in 1999 and suffered through 12 losing seasons.
“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 to him, 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 as the franchise’s leader in field goals made (305), and he’s ranked second on its all-time scoring list (1,271 points). Hall of Famer Lou Groza (1,349 points) has maintained the top spot.
“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.”
With Dawson out of the picture, the Browns are searching for his replacement.
Internet sensation Havard Rugland of Norway used Instagram to reveal that he visited the Browns on Thursday. He posted a photograph of a chair in the Browns’ locker room along with the following message: “On my way back to San Diego after a nice trip to Cleveland!!”
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Rugland’s video of trick kicks went viral last year. He has been training with former NFL kicker Michael Husted and has also worked out for the Detroit Lions and New York Jets, according to the Associated Press.
Even though the Browns checked out Rugland, otherwise known as “Kickalicious,” it’s unlikely they’ll sign him. Dawson believes his successor will encounter some bumps in the road, but he’ll be rooting for whomever the Browns choose.
“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, will 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.”
Hosting tight end
Free-agent tight end Kellen Davis visited the Browns on Thursday, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team has not made the meeting public.
The Chicago Bears cut Davis on March 13 after signing fellow tight end Martellus Bennett. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals are reportedly interested in Davis, too.
Davis, a fifth-round draft pick (No. 158 overall) of the Bears in 2008, has played in all 80 regular-season games during his NFL career. The 6-foot-7, 267-pound Davis, 27, was a full-time starter during the past two seasons.
Last season, Davis tallied 19 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns, though he dropped eight of the 27 catchable passes thrown his way, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He caught 18 passes for 206 yards and five touchdowns in 2011.
The Browns remain in the market for a tight end capable of replacing Benjamin Watson, who signed with the New Orleans Saints this week. Watson started for the Browns during the past three seasons.
The Browns recently signed former Carolina Panthers tight end Gary Barnidge, but he’s expected to be used as a backup. Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, who served as the Panthers’ offensive coordinator the past two seasons, called Barnidge “a utility guy” this week at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix.
Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones posted a disappointing time of 4.92 seconds in the 40-yard dash Thursday at the University of Georgia’s pro day. Many draft analysts have labeled Jones a potential target for the Browns, who own the sixth overall pick in the draft. Jones did not work out last month at the NFL Scouting Combine, instead going through as many medical evaluations as needed. Jones was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2009, but he has reportedly received positive medical reviews during the pre-draft process. … Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo submitted a legal brief last month to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to challenge California’s ban on same-sex marriage. On Thursday, Kluwe and Ayanbadejo announced several members of their NFL brethren are supporting the cause, including former Browns linebackers Scott Fujita and Eric Barton, current Browns linebackers D’Qwell Jackson and Chris Gocong and Browns center Alex Mack. … Defensive end Frostee Rucker, who started all 16 games for the Browns this past season before the new regime cut him last month, agreed to a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, the team announced.
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.