After much speculation, the Cleveland Browns cut ties with veteran linebacker Christian Kirksey on Tuesday after six seasons.
Kirksey was a leader in the locker room and productive on the field when heathy. He had 138 tackles in 2017 and 148 the year prior to that. However, his problem recently had been staying on the field.
Kirksey is coming off surgery on a torn pectoral tendon he suffered last season in Week 2 against the New York Jets. He also missed a chunk of time in 2018 with ankle and hamstring injuries.
Kirksey signed a four-year, $38-million contract extension in 2017 that runs through 2021. It doesn’t take an analytics guru to see that Kirksey hasn’t met the value on that deal simply by not being able to stay on the field.
He was under contract for two more years at $7.75 million in 2020 and $8.25 million in 2021. The Browns tried to restructure the deal, but couldn’t come to an agreement, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com.
“Christian Kirksey has been a vital member of our organization for the last six seasons because of his contributions on and off the field,” Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry said in a release. “He has been a strong leader both in our locker room and in the Cleveland community. These are difficult decisions and, in Christian’s case, more challenging because of how well he has represented our team. We thank him for his dedication and wish him nothing but the best in the next phase of his career.”
Kirksey on Browns: Forever Grateful for Opportunity
Kirksey was quick to react to the news on social media, sharing a post expressing his gratitude for everyone in Cleveland.
“FOREVER GRATEFUL!” he wrote. “Thank you Cleveland for the amazing years! Thank you to the entire organization, my teammates, the Haslems for giving me an opportunity of a lifetime and most of all thank you to the city of Cleveland for accepting me as their own! Forever Love, Kirkoland Out!”
Browns Not Expected to Bring Joe Schobert Back Either
The linebacker depth chart has suddenly become a bit barren in Cleveland, with the team also expecting to part way with soon-to-be free agent Joe Schobert. The Brown are expected to let him hit free agency to pursue a deal that is around $10 million per year.
The Browns are expected to make a big investment in their offensive line and were not willing to pay Schobert that kind of money, according to Cabot. There are only six inside linebackers that make more than $10 million annually, led by Seahawks Bobby Wagner at $18 million.
Schobert made 133 tackles last season, leading the Browns. He also snagged four interceptions and collected a pair of sacks. It was his third season in a row with triple-digit tackles, totaling 104 in 2018 and 144 during a Pro Bowl campaign in 2017.
The moves indicate the Browns have a lot of faith in second-year LB Mack Wilson, or are fairly certain they can add viable pieces via the draft and free agency to fill the team’s 4-3 system. Sione Takitaki was also taken in the draft last season in the third round and could be an option as well.