September 1, 2014

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Browns sign kicker Billy Cundiff to one-year deal

Billy Cundiff

Billy Cundiff

BEREA — The Browns are still seeking a franchise quarterback and have myriad holes to fill on defense. Their special teams, however, are set for the upcoming season.

Cleveland signed kicker Billy Cundiff to a one-year, $1.02 million contract Thursday, preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent this weekend. He made $840,000 last season.

Punter Spencer Lanning, long snapper Christian Yount and return specialist Travis Benjamin were already under contract for 2014, giving the Browns a rare spot of stability in their organization.

Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor also was retained by Cleveland’s front office and will continue in that role for a third season — under his third head coach.

Cundiff rejoined the Browns on Sept. 3 — eight days after being released by the Jets — and set a franchise record with 42 touchbacks while scoring a team-high 95 points.

The 6-foot-1, 212-pounder appeared in all 16 games in 2013, going 32-for-32on extra-point attempts and 21-of-26 on field-goal tries. His .808 field-goal percentage ranked 25th out of 32 teams.

Cundiff, who will turn 34 on March 30, previously played in five games with Cleveland as an injury replacement for Phil Dawson in 2009. He also has kicked for the Cowboys, Saints, Ravens and Redskins.

In 10 NFL seasons, Cundiff has scored 729 points after making 249 of 250 extra points and 160 of 210 field goals. He had been out of the league for nearly three calendar years prior to his first stint with the Browns.

Keeping Cleveland’s special teams intact was a priority for new general manager Ray Farmer, who watched former team CEO Joe Banner and GM Michael Lombardi wipe the slate clean in their lone season in the organization.

Dawson, punter Reggie Hodges, kick returner Joshua Cribbs and coverage ace Ray “Bubba” Ventrone all were allowed to pursue free agency following the 2012 season.

Farmer’s other major moves since taking over Feb. 11 were releasing linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, placing the “transition” tag on two-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and allowing Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward to become an unrestricted free agent.

Jackson inked a four-year, $22 million contract Thursday with the Colts, joining former Browns coach Rob Chudzinski in Indianapolis. “Chud” was hired as a special assistant to coach Chuck Pagano shortly after being fired by Cleveland on Dec. 29.

“He’s a big part of me being here today,” Jackson told reporters in Indianapolis. “I thought highly of him last year when he was my head coach in Cleveland. Once I became a free agent and I was allowed to speak to teams, Chud was one of the first calls that I personally made.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.