Cleveland Browns: 5 players feeling the most pressure in 2016
By Thomas Moore
In 2013, the Browns signed Paul Kruger in free agency and selected Barkevious Mingo in the first round of the NFL Draft with one goal in mind.
They were going to be the bookend pass rushers who would terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
As they so often do with the Browns, the best-laid plans have gone asunder.
Kruger struggled his first year with the Browns, (interestingly enough the last time Horton was defensive coordinator), before rebounding in 2014 with a career-high 11 sacks. His sack totals dropped off last season to just two-and-a-half, but much of that was due to his misuse by former defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil.
While Kruger can at least point to his one big season, Mingo does not have a similar year to hang his hat on. Envisioned to make the transition from defensive end in college to a dominant pass rusher in the NFL, Mingo has posted just seven career sacks and spent more time in pass coverage, when he was on the field, the past two seasons than he did chasing opposing quarterbacks.
Related: Is a bigger Barkevious Mingo better for the Browns?
The Browns sent a clear message to to Mingo this off-season when they declined to pick up his fifth-year option, meaning he can be a free agent after the upcoming season. Mingo has been a good teammate, doing whatever the coaching staff has asked of him, which is a nice contrast to some of the other first-round draft choices on the club. But that only goes so far in the NFL.
Kruger still has two year’s left on his current contract, meaning he is safe for this year, but he is still the third-highest paid player on the team and will turn 31 shortly after the end of the season, a dangerous combination in the Browns new world order.
The Browns have selected edge rushers in the past two drafts in Nate Orchard and Emmanuel Ogbah and if they can show they have what it takes this year, they could replace one or both of Kruger and Mingo at some point in the not-so-distant future.
Next: Quarterback Robert Griffin III