What Are the Experts Saying About Paul Kruger to the Cleveland Browns?
The Cleveland Browns moved swiftly when the free-agent flood gates opened, signing pass-rushing specialist Paul Kruger to a five-year, $41 million contract with $20 million guaranteed.
New owner Jimmy Haslam and new head coach Rob Chudzinski aren't playing.
The former Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker tallied 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons and 4.5 in the team's championship run of 2013, including two in the Super Bowl.
Was the 27-year-old edge-rusher worth the money?
Here's what ESPN's AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley wrote in a reactionary column:
Here's what to like: The Browns get a pass-rusher in his prime and take away the sacks leader from the Super Bowl champions, who happen to be in their division.
Here's what you have to question: The Browns paid an average of $8 million per season for a player who has six career starts.
Kruger, 27, is a solid player. He isn't a special one. You just have to temper your expectations for him or you'll come away disappointed. It's hard to do that when a team makes this type of financial commitment to a player.
Kruger is a part-time player, not an every-down one. He doesn't have the size to hold up against the run, which is why the Ravens used a second-round pick on Courtney Upshaw last year.
Hensley's analysis is good, but it's somewhat flawed. Though Kruger wasn't listed on the depth chart as a starter in Baltimore, he actually was on the field for more snaps (806) than Upshaw was (762). For reference, Haloti Ngata played 837 snaps in 2012.
In today's NFL, pass-rushing specialists have more value than ever, and that's precisely what Kruger is.
ProFootballFocus (subscription required) rated him as the fourth-best pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker in 2012, behind only Clay Matthews, Aldon Smith and DeMarcus Ware.
Not bad, right?
Hensley included this extremely telling statistic in another post: "according to ESPN Stats & Information, the Browns' linebackers combined for 19.5 tackles for loss or sacks last season, the lowest mark in the NFL."
Without a doubt, a pass-rushing boost was needed.
To some, the Browns overpaid for Kruger.
Here's what ProFootballFocus wrote about the signing:
What the Browns have done is get themselves a good player, and they’ve got him from a divisional rival. Considering how impotent their pass rush was last year (and they lost their most prolific guy in Juqua Parker) this was a need pick up, and they were always going to have to overpay a little for it.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller didn't think so and was a fan of the Browns' other signing, defensive lineman Desmond Bryant:
Like what the #Browns did today. Didn't overpay for Paul Kruger. Added a potential stud on the DL in Des Bryant. Wisely building DEF.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 13, 2013
Remember, in this day and age, premier pass-rushers make upwards of $10 million in base salary.
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated gave the Browns an "A-" for the Kruger signing and wrote this about his contract:
Those numbers are actually lower than what it sounded like Kruger might nab initially — somewhere in the vicinity of $10 million per season.
Then, he opined on what it means from an on-field perspective:
Adding an outside pass-rusher was essential for the Browns this offseason, as they move to a 3-4 defense. Jabaal Sheard, coming off a 7.0-sack season will line up on one side, with Kruger now manning the other. Kruger will have to prove he’s more than just a flash in the pan or a situational player. If he does, we might look back on this as a huge steal.
You might be able to argue that Cliff Avril was a better option, but the Browns got the guy they wanted for a price lower than expected.
Sure, some may be opposed to the deal, but the Browns acquired a much-needed pass-rusher in Paul Kruger and didn't break the bank on him.
*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com.
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