A Preseason Trade to Remember
Less than two weeks before the season opener, the Cleveland Browns have decided to shake things up in the kicker department. According to ESPN, the Browns acquired veteran kicker Dustin Hopkins from the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for a 2025 seventh-round draft pick. The trade ends Cade York’s tenure as Cleveland’s kicker, as the Browns plan to waive him Source.
The Fall of Cade York
Drafted in the fourth round by the Browns in 2022, York showed promise in his rookie debut by nailing a game-winning 58-yard field goal against the Carolina Panthers. However, his performance has been lackluster since then. This preseason, York missed two game-winning attempts in a match against Philadelphia and had a potential game-winning field goal blocked during a loss to Kansas City. Consequently, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was hesitant to commit to York as the starting kicker for the upcoming season opener against Cincinnati.
Who Is Dustin Hopkins?
Dustin Hopkins is a 32-year-old native of Austin, Texas, drafted by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Though he never kicked for the Bills due to injury and competition, he found a long-term home with Washington in 2015 Source. Hopkins made 84.8% of his 224 field goal attempts during his career and has also converted 94.4% of his 234 point-after attempts. The Chargers decided to let him go after a competition with Cameron Dicker, making him available for trade.
Why Hopkins Over York?
Hopkins has proven to be a reliable option compared to York, who made only 24 of 32 field goal attempts last year, marking one of the worst conversion rates among starting kickers. In contrast, Hopkins was efficient with the Chargers last season, making 9 of 10 field goals over five games. Despite a hamstring injury costing him his job at the Chargers, Hopkins has made 39 of 44 kicks over his last two seasons, demonstrating consistent performance inside of 50 yards.
The Browns’ Expectations for Hopkins
Cleveland is putting a lot on the line this upcoming season, and having a reliable kicker could be a game-changer. The Browns’ general manager, Andrew Berry, acted quickly to trade for Hopkins, hoping he could provide the consistency that York couldn’t. With a career conversion rate of 84.8% on field goals and 94.4% on point-after attempts, Hopkins seems like a promising bet.
The trade is a statement by the Browns, indicating they are not willing to enter the 2023 season with uncertainty in the kicking department. While it is sad to see a young talent like York get waived, the Browns are in win-now mode, and for that, they need a kicker they can trust. As they prepare for their season opener, all eyes will be on Hopkins to see if he can live up to the expectations and solidify his role on a contending team.
And so, the Browns find themselves with a new kicker, parting ways with their fourth-round draft pick from just a year ago. Only time will tell if this gamble pays off, but for now, Cleveland seems more secure with Hopkins at the helm.