The Browns are set to roll out a completely new look to their special teams in 2022.
Cleveland has made additions at every specialist position — save for longsnapper with Charley Hughlett — this offseason and likely completed its final change of the overhaul with the addition of kicker Cade York, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Corey Bojorquez, the owner of the two longest punts in the league in each of the last two seasons, and Jakeem Grant, a Pro Bowl returner in 2021, were signed in free agency, giving the Browns three new and largely proven players at core special teams positions.
"It was a big priority for us this offseason to make sure that we had added some competition and talent to the kicking game," Executive VP of Football Ops and GM Andrew Berry said after the draft. "I think that is something that, coming out of last year, we thought we could make improvements, and we are certainly excited about some of the individuals who we have added to the roster."
The Browns ranked last in the league last season with a 72.7 conversion rate on field goals and 29th with an average of 42.5 yards per punt. They ranked 20th with an average of 20.7 kickoff return yards and 26th with 7.2 average yards gained per punt return.
Berry and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer were well aware there was plenty for improvement across the entire special teams unit, and the Browns didn't waste time this offseason to address the group. Grant, who has six career return touchdowns in his six year career, was among the first group of players the Browns signed at the beginning of free agency. Bojorquez was signed 19 days later, and York was the first specialist to be selected in the 2022 draft class.
York, in particular, was one of the more interesting additions from the Browns' offseason and arguably the most vital addition to the group.
The Browns have struggled to find consistency in their kickers since 14-year Browns veteran Phil Dawson played his final game with the franchise in 2012. The constant shuffling has partially been because Cleveland is no easy place to boot a football, but that hasn't been an excuse for why the Browns haven't been able to hold a kicker on their roster for two straight seasons in the 10 years after Dawson's departure.
York is fully expected to change that. His powerful leg converted 15 of 19 field goal tries of 50 or more yards at LSU, and the Browns believe his strength — both in his lower body and in his mind — will lead to stability.
"It's kind of a combination of talent with the mental makeup," Director of Player Personnel Dan Saganey said. "This is a guy who kicked in a lot of big games for LSU at a high-powered program where every game is a huge game down there every week, and he made a lot of kicks. When you combine that with the talent, that is something that we were really excited to get here."
Check out photos of Browns 2022 fourth round pick Cade York.
Bojorquez, meanwhile, punted with the Packers last season and led their special teams unit to the 10th-best punting average (46.5 yards) in the league. He even kicked an 82-yard punt last year that resulted in a touchback but was still the longest punt recorded in the league. He led the NFL with 50.8 yards per punt in 2020.
Grant has registered a punt return touchdown in each of the last three years and has found the end zone with a kick or punt return in all but one (2017) of his six NFL seasons. The Browns expect him to handle both return duties at a high level in his first year in Cleveland.