Christian Kirksey expected to draw plenty of interest in free agency
By Matt Conner
Newly released player Christian Kirksey should draw plenty of interest as a free agent linebacker, says Cleveland Browns expert Dan Justik.
On Tuesday, the Cleveland Browns decided to go ahead and release linebacker Christian Kirksey after a couple frustrating seasons in a row dealing with questions surrounding his durability. While one team is ready to move on, however, a few others are expected to check in given how productive Kirksey has been in years past as a run-stopping linebacker.
Kirksey joins Tahir Whitehead as linebackers recently released due to cap reasons and both should bolster the market for teams in need of help in their run defense. Last season, Kirksey missed all but 2 games and only played in 7 games in 2018.
For a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, Reggie Ragland is going to be one such player hitting free agency, which leaves the Chiefs without their best run stopper in the second level. Ben Niemann remains in place on the roster, but the Chiefs might want to add another veteran linebacker who is strong against the run if the price is right.
We recently asked Dan Justik of Dawg Pound Daily to tell us more about Kirksey’s release and what to expect on the open market.
What can you tell us about Kirksey’s release? Was it expected? Is it just about his health or are there performance concerns?
Christian Kirksey being released was not a surprising move by the Browns. There were serious concerns about his health and durability after playing in only nine games the last two seasons. He was placed on IR in 2018 with a hamstring injury and placed on IR in 2019 due to a torn pectoral. With the uncertainty about Kirksey’s durability, the Browns were not going to be willing to pay his cap hit of over $9 million in 2020. The Browns managed to save $7.55 million in cap savings by releasing Kirksey, so the decision to move on was certainly expected this offseason.
How would you summarize his tenure with the Browns?
Kirksey emerged as one of the leaders in the Browns locker room after being drafted in 2014. He was one of the few players who managed to survive the constant turnover in the front office and with new coaching staffs. He was one of the best players on the field for the Browns in 2016 and 2017 and continued to be a solid presence on and off the field for the organization.
What does Kirksey do best? What should a team never ask him to do?
Kirksey is a versatile linebacker who can play as the MIKE or at WILL. He is a leader on the field and can help setup the defense, making sure everyone is positioned well in formation. He is real stout against the run and was one of the league’s leading tacklers in 2016 and 2017. He did not have many issues with missed tackles and thrived at filling gaps and preventing runners to get past the second-level. He did not make many splash plays, but he was an effective tackler when on the field. However, Kirksey was regularly picked apart in coverage in the middle of the field and struggled to improve in that aspect of his game. The biggest question is if his performance will drop overall after being placed on injured reserve the last two seasons.
What would you expect the market to yield for him?
It would not be surprising if there is a lot of interest in Kirksey since he has proven to be a solid player in the middle of the defense and is still only 27-years-old. I would expect he would take a one-year deal in the $3 or $5 million range to try to boost his value, but if there are several teams interested, he may be able to find a multi-year deal if a bidding war ensues.