The Cleveland Browns released middle linebacker Christian Kirksey on Tuesday with the team looking as if they’re about to take on a small rebuild. The team is in desperate need of help along the offensive line and they already have made it known it’s unlikely that they will re-sign LB Joe Schobert in free agency due to the hefty price tag he’ll look to cash-in on.
Kirksey was the Browns’ third round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and has been one of the longest-tenured players for the team. In 2017, he signed a four-year extension, making it look like the team was all-in on him for the long haul. However, Kirksey went on to play just nine games combined in 2018 (7) and ‘19 (2) and ended each season on IR. With the new regime in Cleveland doing some early spring cleaning, the Rams may be able to take advantage of a once above-average player who may just need a change of scenery.
In his last full season with the Browns, Kirksey amassed 138 total tackles. The year before that he set a career-high with 148. In his only two full seasons where he played all 16 games, Kirksey averaged 143 tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks, and four passes defended. That’s not too shabby and you could do so much worse. He’s also a three-time captain and only 27 years old. It should also be mentioned that, although he only started two full seasons, he never missed a game due to injury in the first four years with the team.
The recent injury woes will lead to Kirksey being one of the cheaper options for teams in the linebacker market.
Christian Kirksey beat Brandon Brooks to sack Carson Wentz and also chased down Darren Sproles on a screen from outside the opposite hash.— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) March 10, 2020
By Philly law you have to sign him. pic.twitter.com/PRP9c3popC
Kirksey was on a productive pace in both the ‘18 and ‘19 seasons before injuries got the best of him. Through the first seven games of the 2018 season, Kirksey had 43 tackles, a tackle-for-loss, two interceptions, five passes defended, and a fumble recovery. In his first two games of 2019, he had 11 tackles and two tackles-for-loss.
His best trait is his nose for the football. In the video above, him being able to chase down former Eagles running back Darren Sproles from the opposite side of the field speaks for itself. The play before shows off his versatility as a potential situational pass-rusher.
This was one of Kirksey’s biggest highlights from his shortened ‘19 season. It’s still blatantly obvious he’s still got it. Tracking down and sticking one of the slipperiest backs in all of football is a good way to vouch for why you should still be on a roster, regardless of recent injury history.
His extension that he signed with the Browns was worth $38 million. It’s highly unlikely he gets anywhere near that almost $10 million/year average. A short-term deal for about $5-6 million is more like what he’ll command on the free market.
Spotrac.com currently has the market value for Cory Littleton at $12.2 million per year. That would be the second-most money given to an off-ball linebacker in NFL history, right behind Atlanta’s Deion Jones at $14.25 million. If the Rams feel like that’s too much money for someone who plays that position, Kirksey would be an excellent bargain-bin find that could hold the position over while they draft or develop someone younger, like last year’s fifth-round selection Micah Kiser who has gathered positive reviews from Sean McVay.
Either way, the Rams should most definitely do their due dilligence on the former Brown in a slim free agent linebacker group this year.