April 20, 2014

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Browns trim roster to 53, need to find kicker after cutting 2

BEREA – Who needs a kicker?
That’s not a rhetorical question. The answer is: the Browns.
The Browns cut 14 players Saturday to get down to the regular-season roster limit of 53. While they kept 12 offensive linemen, 10 linebackers, five undrafted rookies and four draft picks, they were without a kicker.
The Browns terminated the contract of veteran Shayne Graham and waived rookie Brandon Bogotay. First-year coach Rob Chudzinski wasn’t panicking, despite the season starting a week from today.
“We weren’t completely satisfied,” he said. “We felt like this was the best move at this particular time. We’ll have a kicker in the next few days. I’m not concerned.”
Saturday was cutdown day across the league, but that’s not as final as it sounds. Veterans can be signed as free agents or younger players claimed off waivers.
With the front office and coaching staff in their first season, the bottom of Cleveland’s roster is sure to be shuffled.
“Our roster is fluid,” Chudzinski said. “This is our Aug. 31 roster and not necessarily our Sept. 8 roster.
“Our approach was to keep the best players at this particular time and this cutdown. We’ll address more specifics at each position in the next few days.”
The Browns are thin at receiver with just four – Greg Little, Davone Bess, Travis Benjamin and Josh Cooper – after Josh Gordon was placed on the reserve/suspended by NFL list and David Nelson was cut. Gordon will miss the first two games.
Nelson was a mild surprise. He signed a one-year contract as a free agent in April, but was unable to get back to 100 percent following a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in last year’s opener.
Running back and cornerback are also light. Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Jackson are behind starter Trent Richardson, but Ogbonnaya is also the No. 1 fullback. Joe Haden and Buster Skrine are the starting corners, with Chris Owens and Leon McFadden behind them.
“I think the flexibility that we have is to be able to add at any position,” Chudzinski said. “What it really boils down to is making those evaluations of the guys that are available.”
The Browns knew replacing Pro Bowl kicker Phil Dawson after 14 seasons wouldn’t be easy, but they probably didn’t think it would be this difficult.
Graham, 35, was 3-for-3 on field goals during the preseason, but missed the finale Thursday with tightness in his back. The Browns would prefer someone younger with a stronger leg. Bogotay fits that mold, but missed the last 2½ games with a groin strain.
Chudzinski didn’t rule out bringing either back, but workouts for free agents are expected. Dan Carpenter and Billy Cundiff are possibilities.
Carpenter is 27 years old, has made a Pro Bowl and spent the last five years with the Dolphins, making 127 of 155 field goals (82 percent). Miami used a fifth-round pick in April on Caleb Sturgis and cut Carpenter during camp.
Carpenter made subsequent pit-stops in Arizona and with the New York Jets but didn’t hang on. He’s available and will likely get a call.
Cundiff, 33, filled in for an injured Dawson in 2009. He was 7-for-12 with the Redskins last year and was recently cut by the Jets.
“I feel like between the pool that’s there and the guys that have been here we’ll find the guy we need,” Chudzinski said.
CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi cut a member of their first draft class – free safety Jamoris Slaughter, a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame. He missed the offseason as he recovered from a torn Achilles, then missed significant time in the preseason with hamstring and calf strains. He’s a candidate for the eight-man practice squad.
Cutting Slaughter weakens an already suspect draft class. The Browns traded two picks for selections in 2014 and made only five picks. Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (first round), McFadden (third), guard Garrett Gilkey (seventh) and defensive end Armonty Bryant (seventh) made the team, but none is expected to start Week 1.
Strong safety Josh Aubrey of Stephen F. Austin led the undrafted rookies to make the cut. He was joined by offensive linemen Caylin Hauptmann and Martin Wallace and outside linebackers Paul Hazel and Eric Martin, who were claimed off waivers last week.
“Josh came out of nowhere,” Chudzinski said. “If you think back to the spring and seeing him then and how much progress he’s made since the spring, he’s really come a long way and done a nice job and gotten to the point where we trust him.”
** The other players waived were: linebacker James-Michael Johnson, offensive lineman Aaron Adams, cornerback Akeem Auguste, linebacker Justin Cole, running back Jamaine Cook, defensive lineman Hall Davis, receiver Tori Gurley, receiver Naaman Roosevelt, defensive lineman Brian Sanford and linebacker Justin Staples.
Johnson was a fourth-round pick in 2012.
** Chudzinski said he’ll provide injury updates Wednesday. He refuted a report that Mingo will have a CT scan on his bruised lung Monday.
** Chudzinski said Skrine is slated to start the opener ahead of Owens.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

BROWNS ROSTER
Quarterbacks (3): Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer
Running backs (4): Trent Richardson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Brandon Jackson, Brad Smelley (fullback)
Wide receivers (4): Greg Little, Davone Bess, Travis Benjamin, Josh Cooper
Tight ends (3): Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge, Kellen Davis
Offensive linemen (12): Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Oniel Cousins, Mitchell Schwartz, Shawn Lauvao, Jason Pinkston, Garrett Gilkey, Rashad Butler, Caylin Hauptmann, Martin Wallace, Jarrod Shaw
Defensive linemen (7): Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, Desmond Bryant, Billy Winn, John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Armonty Bryant
Linebackers (10): D’Qwell Jackson, Craig Robertson, Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard, Barkevious Mingo, Quentin Groves, L.J. Fort, Tank Carder, Paul Hazel, Eric Martin
Cornerbacks (4): Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Chris Owens, Leon McFadden
Safeties (4): T.J. Ward, Tashaun Gipson, Johnson Bademosi, Josh Aubrey
Specialists (2): Punter Spencer Lanning, long snapper Christian Yount

Reserve/suspended by NFL (1): WR Josh Gordon
Reserve-injured (2): RB Montario Hardesty, RB Dion Lewis
Reserve/non-football injury (1): OL Chris Faulk