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Lanning, a South Carolina product, went undrafted in 2011. He was signed by the Chicago Bears in July of 2011 and waived just before the start of the season, on Sept. 2.
He signed with the Jaguars last January but was released last week, making him available for Cleveland.
Lanning has never kicked in a regular season NFL game. As a senior at USC in 2010, he was No. 21 in the nation in punting with a 44.1-yard average.
Last season, Browns punter Brad Maynard averaged 40.5 yards per punt, which was 32nd in the league among qualified punters.
Breaking: #browns are franchising phil Dawson NFL source told plain dealer today. $3.8 million— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) March 2, 2012
Phil Dawson, 37, has spent his entire 13-year career kicking field goals for the Cleveland Browns. Last season, Dawson connected on 24 of his 29 field goal attempts, including a career-high eight field goals from 50-yards or beyond, as well as all 20 of his extra points. Dawson has a career kicking average of 83.1 percent, which is good enough to be the 10th best percentage among active kickers.
The Browns were expected to use the franchise tag on D'Qwell Jackson, but ended up signing him to a five-year deal instead.
The Cleveland Browns have limited interest in Green Bay Packers free agent quarterback Matt Flynn, according to a Wednesday report from the Columbus Dispatch. More specifically, the Browns are not expected to be willing to meet the expected salary demands Flynn would require.
Flynn might also require a trade, if the Packers choose to go the tag-and-trade route, using the franchise tag to re-sign him for 2012 and trading him rather than simply letting him walk in free agency for nothing in return.
Flynn was Green Bay's seventh-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. He has two career starts, with nine touchdowns and five interceptions in limited playing time behind Aaron Rodgers.
The Browns are still viewed by many around the league as one of the teams interested in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. In order to draft Griffin, the Browns would need to swing a deal with the St. Louis Rams, who have the second pick in the draft. That opportunity will cost the Browns, or any team, a hefty package of draft picks, potentially three first-round picks and a handful of picks in the later rounds.
The Cleveland Browns were heavily favored to use their franchise tag on ILB D'Qwell Jackson so they could keep him from taking his services elsewhere. It's not going to be necessary any more, thankfully for Cleveland. Browns Insider Jeff Schudel reported on Monday that Jackson has re-signed with the Browns for a whopping five years, a great deal if he can keep his production at the same level that it was at for 2011.
Jackson had 158 tackles from the middle linebacker position in 2011, adding 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. On a Browns team that doesn't have all that many solid defenders, re-signing Jackson was clearly a top priority and Cleveland fans will be thankful that he's back on the team.
Contract details via Adam Schefter on twitter:
Browns signed LB D'Qwell Jackson on a five-year, $42.5 million deal that includes $19 millin in guaranteed money and roster bonuses.
This clears up kicker Phil Dawson to be franchised, as said in Schudel's tweet above.
1. Wide Receiver
It seems like every year, the Browns try again and again to find a top receiver, and they keep on missing. Greg Little seems to have plenty of potential, as he was second among rookies with 61 receptions, and 5th in yards at 709. If the Browns are able to snatch up a legitimate number one receiver, they could be in really good shape after Josh Cribbs had undoubtedly his best season in the NFL as a receiver, catching 41 passes for 518 yards. He could be a really dangerous slot receiver going forward, and Little would make a fantastic number two possession receiver. It makes you wonder if Cleveland might go after a guy like Justin Blackmon with their first pick to complete the receiver group.
2. Running Back
The Browns could/should lose Peyton Hillis this offseason, thus confirming that the Madden cover curse is real (if you believe that sort of thing). All kidding aside, the Browns have a bunch of injury-riddled guys in their running backs stable, an area of the team that was supposed to be a major strength this season with the return of Montario Hardesty to the lineup. Turns out, Hardesty might be a little more green than advertised, and Peyton Hillis has a really good chance of leaving. The Browns want to bring him back, but at a reduced price. Hillis thinks he could probably get a better contract elsewhere, but he wants the best deal Cleveland can offer. It’s a messy marriage that is likely to end with Hillis playing elsewhere in 2012. That being said, I think it would be an absolute perfect fit for the Browns to take Trent Richardson with the 4th pick, but I may be in the minority with that opinion.
3. Offensive Line
Offensive line is not a huge issue area for the Browns, but they could definitely stand to upgrade the right side of their line. Especially if they are going to pursue another quarterback, ensuring that he is well-protected in a division full of great defenses is a must. Tony Pashos simply isn’t cutting it anymore, and there is a chance, obviously, that Eric Steinbach won’t be the same player when he comes back from injury. This is a team that had only 77 first downs running the ball and finished 29th in total yards.
I think the Browns have a solid pair of young safeties in Usama Young and T.J. Ward (only played 8 games), but Joe Haden could certainly use a running mate at the cornerback position. Mike Adams stepped up and led the team with three interceptions when T.J. Ward went down with injury, but he is a free agent, so the secondary needs some upgrading overall. The most telling stat here is that the Browns had just nine interceptions, and their top cornerback in that area is Sheldon Brown who had two picks on the year and is going to be 33 next month. Morris Claiborne would be a good choice with their first draft pick.
5. Re-sign Phil Dawson
One of the best kickers in the league needs to be a priority this offseason.
6. More Pass Rush
Jabaal Sheard looks like he was a solid pickup in the second round last year, Phil Taylor looks like a keeper, and the Browns have a solid defensive line overall, but they could use more pass rushers. Sheard led the team with 8.5 sacks, and Rubin and Taylor combined for nine. If the right guy is available, the Browns could really fortify their pass rush with that second first round pick, or their high second round pick. They have a lot of assets to play with in free agency as well, so looking into signing a guy like Cliff Avril or Mario Williams would be fantastic as well.
Monday is the first day for NFL teams to lay the 'franchise tag' on players, which essentially gives the team a guaranteed one year contract for any one player that they want. That usually comes in handy for free agency when there is a contract dispute going on, keeping UFA's away from other teams that might want to snatch them up in FA.
The Cleveland Browns are lucky enough to not have any real contract disputes, except for the fact that they have yet to finally work something out with D'Qwell Jackson. Jackson will be the likely candidate for the Franchise Tag in Cleveland if they can't, though both parties want Jackson to stay with the Browns.
Jackson was a rock at the center of the Cleveland defense in 2011, gaining 158 tackles and a fistful of sacks at the MLB position. He's probably the number one priority for Cleveland to get back on the team in the offseason, the biggest reason why the Franchise Tag might be considered.
The Cleveland Browns have 11 UFA players going into 2012 free agency, with Peyton Hillis and D'Qwell Jackson being the headliners of the group.