Phil Dawson was a class act during his 14 years as the Cleveland Browns' kicker and he stayed that way as he left for the San Francisco 49ers. In a conference call that he requested to do with Cleveland-area media, Dawson chose not to stir up any trouble even though he probably could have done so.
When asked if the Browns had made a contract offer to him, Dawson sidestepped the question by saying, "I appreciate the interest in that, but I'm 100 percent moving forward, and that's just how I'm going to roll with this."
This is what we know: Dawson signed a one-year deal with the 49ers worth $2.25 million, which includes a $1 million signing bonus. So, here are the likely scenarios: either the Browns didn't make him an offer or they severely low-balled the most productive player of the expansion era Browns. Either way, the Browns wouldn't look good if Dawson confirmed that to reporters and fans.
The old regime paid Dawson $3.81 million last season with the franchise tag, but the new regime led by chief executive officer Joe Banner never seemed interested in keeping Dawson. There's always a chance Dawson wouldn't return for any Browns offer because he knew he had a better shot at winning a Super Bowl with San Francisco. But I just can't see that being the case after listening to Dawson say he wanted to finish his career with the Browns just nine months ago. He even acknowledged his goal was to become the Browns' all-time leader scorer back when he was competing for the kicking job in 1999.
Dawson declined to address what would have happened if the Browns had matched the 49ers' offer. "If worms had guns, birds wouldn't eat 'em," Dawson said. "Once it became apparent San Francisco was legit, I got excited."
Dawson said he leaves with no regrets, even though he did come up 78 points shy of surpassing Lou Groza as the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
“He is Mr. Cleveland Brown," Dawson said of Groza. "It only seems right that he’s going to be the all-time leading scorer there."