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February 24, 2011 - Mike McLain
In what might have seemed like a surprise move, the Browns have applied the franchise tag to kicker Phil Dawson.
It's a surprise becaue it appeared obvious to everyone, including Dawson, that he wouldn't be back for a 13th season. After the final game of last season, Dawson shook hands with several reporters and talked like a man who knew he would be playing elsewhere next season. He was so sure that he sold his Cleveland-area home.
The franchise tag means the player is locked to the team for next season at the average salary of the five highest paid kickers in the NFL -- about $3.2 million. It's a big raise for Dawson, who was underpaid at $1 million last season.
Dawson is the greatest kicker in franchise history. He recently turned 36, but his right leg is a strong as ever, and his accuracy remains outstanding.
Dawson wasn't happy the last two seasons because of the lack of a contract offer. He skipped offseason workouts the last two years, with the exception of the mandatory minicamp in June.
The team's decision to "tag" Dawson came out of nowhere. General manager Tom Heckert, President Mike Holmgren and coach Pat Shurmur obviously realize Dawson's value.
It was the right move. Whether ot not Dawson approves isn't known at this time.
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