DraftBrowns.com Staff Writer: Ryan Alton
This is Thomas’ sixth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. He has been selected to represent the Browns every year since he was drafted in 2007. Only legendary Browns running back Jim Brown has accomplished that same feat while wearing the Orange & Brown.
Oftentimes, Pro Bowl selections are not indicative of how well a player has performed in a given season. Seeing as how fan and player voting makes up a large percentage of the selection process, Pro Bowl voting is often subjective and rarely fair. Every year, multiple players who performed at the highest levels for their respective positions get ‘snubbed’ from attending and every year, players who are not quite as deserving make it based on name recognition and/or popularity.
Joe Thomas and Phil Dawson are exceptions to this phenomenon. According to Pro Football Focus, a comprehensive statistics website whose team of analysts grade every NFL player in every game, Thomas leads all NFL tackles in pass-blocking efficiency (PBE). In an article published by PFF over the summer (prior to the 2012 season), Thomas had allowed only 60 total pressures (sacks, hits, and hurries combined) in 1655 pass attempts, a 97.11% PBE. This season, Thomas only gave up 3 sacks and 3 additional hits on the quarterback.
Phil Dawson has spent 14 (often miserable) seasons kicking in the vicious winds of Cleveland for losing teams. He is the most-tenured Brown on the roster, being the only one left since the team returned to the NFL in 1999. He is the leading scorer in franchise history. He has never been voted to a Pro Bowl, until now.
“Awesome Dawson”, playing on his second franchise tag in as many seasons, made 28 of 29 field goals this year, including six beyond 50 yards. He is 38 years old and has not been re-signed to a contract to play for the Browns next season. The franchise tag is a designation a team can use on one player on their roster in order to prevent them from leaving in Free Agency with the absence of a long-term contract. The tag allows Dawson to be paid the average of the Top 5 kickers in the league over the last five years.
To tag Dawson a third time, the Browns would have to pay him approximately $14 million dollars next season. As reliable and as valuable as Dawson has been for the Browns, it’s hard to imagine that new Browns CEO Joe Banner will be willing to spend that much of the team’s salary cap on a kicker. It’s possible that Banner and Dawson can work out a longer deal, say two years, but with Dawson’s age and current salary playing a factor, it’s not overly likely that the two sides would reach a deal that’s fair to both parties.
Also, Dawson, a Texas native, spends half of the year here in Cleveland without his wife and two sons, who live full-time in Texas. He may be getting to the point in his life where a move closer to home might heavily affect his decision. And no one could blame him. However, it would be difficult for fans, who adore Dawson, to see their beloved kicker play his last game as a Cleveland Brown at the Pro Bowl of all places, but it will surely be a situation worth monitoring as the off-season unfolds.
Rounding out the voting for the Browns, center Alex Mack, middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, and Kick Returner/Specialist Joshua Cribbs were all selected to be first alternates to the Pro Bowl roster. There is a good chance one or more of them could make the actual roster if one of the starters is injured or on the AFC team playing in the Super Bowl.
With Thomas and Jackson signing long-term contracts last summer, there is no doubt they will be part of the long-term plan with the Browns going forward, no matter what changes take place this off-season. Mack has already been to one Pro Bowl and is up for contract renewal next year. He has been nothing short of solid since he was drafted in 2009. There is little doubt, at this point, that he will be signed long-term.
That leaves Dawson and Cribbs, the two special teams extraordinaires, whose futures with the Browns are in doubt. Once again, it will be one crazy off-season in Brownstown. And DraftBrowns.com will be here to break it down, every step of the way.