Paul Kruger rushed his way to a Super Bowl win, and on to a huge payday.
Baltimore’s sacks leader last season agreed to terms Tuesday on a five-year, $40 million contract with the Cleveland Browns, who with their first move in free agency added a proven pass rusher and weakened the defending NFL champions.
The 27-year-old linebacker will sign his deal today before he’s introduced at the team’s training complex in suburban Berea. The Browns officially announced the agreement with Kruger on Tuesday night, a few hours after it was reported by The Associated Press and other media outlets. ESPN was the first to report Kruger was leaving the Ravens to join the Browns.
“We are very excited about the addition of Paul Kruger to our team,” new Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said in a release. “He is a talented linebacker who is going to make an immediate impact on our defense. When you put on the film you see physicality, explosive pass rush and a high motor. He has been very productive for the Ravens, and proved it at the highest level last season in the playoffs.”
Entering free agency with over $47 million in salary-cap space, Browns CEO Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi wasted little time landing Kruger, considered one of the top outside rushers in this year’s free-agent class. He had 131/2 sacks last season — 41/2 in the playoffs — and will strengthen a young Cleveland defense transitioning from a 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4 multi-front formation under new coordinator Ray Horton.
“Paul is the type of player we were looking to bring on at the outset of free agency, and we are thrilled that we were able to sign him,” Banner said. “Not only do we feel strongly about his ability as a football player, but he will add a great deal from a leadership standpoint as well. He has exhibited marked improvement each year of his career and we believe he can help the Cleveland Browns for many years to come.”
There were reports later Tuesday that the Browns were close to a deal for free-agent defensive tackle Desmond Bryant of the Oakland Raiders.
Kruger’s signing supports new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s pledge to turn around a franchise that has lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons and made the playoffs once since 1999. And now that they’ve addressed one of their biggest needs, the Browns may target a tight end, cornerback and perhaps a quarterback in free agency to bring in as competition for Brandon Weeden.