The Cleveland Browns said goodbye to a couple of specialists Monday after the team’s decisions in last weekend’s NFL Draft rendered their services redundant.
“We have released kickers Chase McLaughlin and Chris Blewitt,” the Browns wrote.
McLaughlin appeared in 16 of 17 regular season games for the Browns last year, making good on 15-of-21 field goal attempts and 36-of-37 extra point tries, per Pro Football Reference.
Blewitt was signed to Cleveland’s practice squad in late December after McLaughlin struggled somewhat during the second half of the season with field goal misses and then fell ill with COVID. Blewitt made 2-of-5 field goal attempts over two games with the Washington Commanders prior to joining the Browns, and was also 2-for-2 on extra points.
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Browns Select LSU Kicker Cade York in Fourth Round of NFL Draft
The Browns were able to move on from both McLaughlin and Blewitt after drafting their replacement uncommonly high over the weekend.
Cleveland selected kicker Cade York out of Louisiana State University (LSU), with the No. 124 pick in the fourth round of the draft. York’s was the highest draft position of a kicker since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Roberto Aguayo out of Florida State University in 2016, per a report from Jake Trotter of ESPN.
Drafting York as high as the Browns did was the first in a series of unconventional moves by the organization over the several days. The team on Monday also signed undrafted free agent Marcus Santos-Silva as their newest tight end. Strangely enough, the 24-year-old Santos-Silva didn’t play football in college, but instead spent five years as a forward on the VCU and Texas Tech basketball teams.
York Drafted as Answer to Browns’ Long-Time Special Teams Struggles
While a fourth-round pick is more capital than most teams are willing to invest in a kicker, the Browns have a history of special teams struggles that argue for the value of the move.
Trotter noted that Cleveland finished dead last in the NFL during the 2021 season with a made field goal rate of just 72.6%. The team drafted Zane Gonzalez out of Arizona in the seventh round five years ago (2017), as well as Austin Siebert in the fifth round three years ago (2019). The Browns missed with both picks.
York spent three years at LSU, where he saw 54-of-66 field goal attempts sail through the uprights, as well as 164-of-168 extra point tries. He set an LSU record over the course of his career with 15 made field goals from 50-plus yards. Beyond that, York won a National Championship with the Tigers as a freshman in 2019. ESPN rated York as the top kicker in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, York figures to be the guy heading into training camp and the starter when the Browns open the 2022 regular season in early September.