Kirksey was a third-round pick of the Browns in 2014 and was tied with offensive lineman Joel Bitonio as the longest tenured members of the team. He served as a team captain on defense before being injured early in the season.
The impact of Kirksey’s release was felt by the entire roster, with a few players sharing their thoughts on social media.
“You will be missed. Leadership and effort, nothing but love and respect for the person and teammate you are,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry wrote.
Mack Wilson was Kirksey’s prodigy, taking over following his injury. He’ll be expected to hold down a bigger role with both Kirksey and Joe Schobert destined for different squads next year.
“Kirko was my OG. Y’all wouldn’t understand everywhere I was on the practice field and the games he was watching me. Always corrected me in a positive way,” Wilson wrote. “Thank you so much for taking me under your wings. Love forever big bro.”
Kirksey responded to Mack, saying: “Lil bro! Its forever love with me. Its your time now bro! Be great like I know you will! The sky is the limit for you. The torch is passed!! Love u bro.”
Christian Kirksey Already Has Suitors
When healthy, Kirksey was a high-producing talent. He had 138 tackles in 2017 and 148 the year prior to that. He had 484 tackles, 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions during his time with the Browns.
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. He signed a four-year, $38-million contract extension in 2017.
However, the Kirksey will have plenty of suitors as a free agent on teams willing to take a bit of a gamble. Dan Graziano of ESPN reported Kirksey already has visits with three teams lined up.
Numbers Didn’t Work for Browns New Regime
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.”