By trading for punter Andy Lee yesterday, the Cleveland Browns completed their overhaul of their special teams unit this offseason.
All three specialists from last season (kicker, punter and long snapper) are no longer with the team.
Last season, Billy Cundiff (14 games) and Garrett Hartley (2 games) split time at kicker, Spencer Lanning was the punter and Christian Yount was the long snapper.
Cundiff hurt his right knee in late December and was released with an injury settlement, leading to Hartley’s signing. Hartley lasted until the middle of May before being released this offseason. Both Lanning and Yount were recently cut, on June 6 and May 29 respectively.
The special teams unit under coach Chris Tabor struggled to distinguish themselves last season. Cleveland ranked 28th in kickoff return average, punt return average and field goal percentage and 15th in net punt average. Change was needed in order to improve.
Battling for the kicker job are Travis Coons and Carey Spears, neither of whom have attempted a field goal in a NFL game. Andy Lee has the punter job on lockdown and the same appears to be true of Charley Hughlett at long snapper, as he is the only one on the roster.
Like Coons and Spears, Hughlett has no NFL experience. He performed well enough in practice last season to be on the practice squad and was obviously better than Yount in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) recently, leading to Yount’s release.
Lee is the only specialist with experience, having played 11 seasons in San Francisco. A four-time All-Pro (2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012), he has been one of the best punters in the NFL over the last few seasons.
As a whole, the new specialists have very little experience, with just Lee having played in a regular season game.
Cleveland clearly needed to improve their special teams performance, so they have moved on from all of their specialists from last season.