Ravens Don't Expect to Re-Sign Linebacker Paul Kruger
This admission sets the stage for the linebacker to hit the open market and command a high salary. After a season in which he recorded nine sacks during the regular season and 4.5 sacks during the postseason, Kruger figures to be compensated handsomely by a rush-needy team in free agency.
The Cowboys gave linebacker Anthony Spencer the franchise tag on Monday, which means that Kruger is arguably the best 3-4 outside linebacker available on the open market. With pass-rushers going at a premium, the Ravens are smart to turn away Kruger when his value is at its absolute highest.
Baltimore will now set its sights on inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who performed admirably as a fill-in for Ray Lewis down the 2012 stretch. Though he's not a superstar, Ellerbe is a solid enough player to hold down the fort for Baltimore while it attempts to rebuild an aging defense.
Off the edge, Courtney Upshaw will now get an opportunity to be a full-time player. The former Alabama standout was a complete linebacker in college and could end up a very good replacement for Paul Kruger.
Surprisingly, according to Pro Football Focus, Upshaw was a much better run defender than a pass-rusher in 2012 when he saw time as a rotational linebacker. The pressure will now be on Terrell Suggs to prove he's fully recovered from a torn Achilles and rush the passer at a prolific clip to make up for Upshaw's deficiencies at the point of attack.
The tandem could end up being rather similar to the Cowboys' combination of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Dallas uses the two in conjunction with one another, and Spencer gets his fair share of hurries and hits in the backfield as teams attempt to key in on Ware.
As for Kruger, the free agent will have a host of options this offseason.
Jason Cole tweeted that it's not out of the realm of possibility for Kruger to pass $10 million on the open market.
I didn't believe this couple of weeks ago, but do now: LB/DE Paul Kruger looks like he's going to blow past $9m per, could get over $10m per— Jason Cole (@JasonColeYahoo) March 2, 2013
The Browns could use Kruger as a complementary piece to linebacker Jabaal Sheard. A trio of Kruger, Sheard and D'Qwell Jackson would be a force to be reckoned with for Cleveland. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton loves to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks and Kruger would allow him to do so.
Indianapolis will need to find a way to efficiently rush the passer, and the team has shown in the past that it isn't afraid to spend a large sum of money on sack artists. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are getting older, so Paul Kruger would represent a solid youthful infusion of talent for the Colts.
The Saints need to sack the quarterback more in 2013, especially in a division with Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Josh Freeman. They may not go after Kruger due to the high demand for the pass-rusher's services, but it's an interesting option nonetheless.
The Browns and Colts are about to get into a bidding war for Kruger and don't be surprised when one of the two breaks the bank for Kruger's services.
Follow me on Twitter @EliNachmany.
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