One of the most compelling position battles this season for the Cleveland Browns will happen on special teams, specifically at the kicker position.
Browns incumbent kicker Cody Parkey was less than stellar a year ago. He hit on 19 of 22 field goal attempts and but was just 43 of 47 on extra points. The Browns inked him to a 1-year contract in March to stick around, although only $200,000 of the deal was guaranteed.
This offseason the Browns signed Chase McLaughlin to spice up the competition. McLaughlin originally signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2019. He’s also had stints with the Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts. McLaughlin has made 78.6 percent of his field goal attempts (22 of 28) and 96.9 percent of his extra points (31 of 32) in the NFL.
McLaughlin most recently played for the Jets, hitting a pair of extra-point attempts.
Browns Says Parkey Has Put on Strength
Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said that he’s like what he’s seen from Parkey so far, with the 29-year-old getting back in the weight room after a year away.
“We asked him to get stronger this offseason because last offseason, we had the virus, and he did not want to go to the weight room. His wife was pregnant at the time, and he did not want to jeopardize anything and nobody knew what was going on, and I do not blame him,” Priefer told reporters this week. “I think he lost some of that strength so when he showed up for camp [last year], he was not quite as strong as he had been. He put on seven or eight pounds of muscle.
Parkey got good initial reviews from Priefer following minicamp.
“He looks really good. He is stronger. He is kicking off better. He feels more confident,” he said. “He still has a little bit of work to do, and he has positioned himself very well for this competition.”
That being said, Priefer admitted that the two need to be better after the showing they put on during the final day of minicamp.
“I think Chase was six for seven and Cody was five for seven, which we need to improve,” Priefer said. “I want them to be seven for seven to be honest with you across the board.”
Browns Exploring Options in Return Game
There could also be an interesting competition taking place in the return game, with the Browns have a bevy of interesting options to explore. The Browns signed speedy JoJo Natson last season, but his year ended abruptly with a torn ACL.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, D’Ernest Johnson, Ryan Switzer and rookie Demetric Felton are all other options to catch kicks.
“We have a lot of competition,” Priefer said. “We have a lot of different types of skillsets. For me, it is a wide-open job so we are going to see what happens here down the road.”