Christian Kirksey, Linebacker — Hamstring
The biggest name returning from injury in 2018 is none other than linebacker Christian Kirksey. Along with guard Joel Bitonio, Kirksey is the longest-tenured player on the Browns as each was brought in during the 2014 NFL Draft.
A former Iowa Hawkeye, Kirksey had his two best seasons before an injury-plagued campaign this past year. In 2016, he had a career-high 143 tackles with 2.5 sacks and three pass defenses. He followed that up with 138 tackles with 3.5 sacks and five pass deflections.
Looking for even more last year, Kirksey was off to a hot start as he had 43 tackles, five pass breakups and his first two career interceptions in seven games. However, he was dealing with injuries throughout the year and missed Week 2 and Week 3. By Week 10, he was sent to the injured reserve and missed the final seven games of the season.
Kirksey enters 2019 on the second season of a four-year, $38 million contract extension he signed back in 2017. According to OverTheCap.com, he’s due $8.2 million this season, $9.95 in 2020, and $10.45 in 2021. With the contract he has, it becomes affordable to move on in 2020 should they have a suitable replacement, which could be the case.
Cleveland added several linebackers in the offseason as they signed Adarius Taylor in free agency and drafted Sione Takitaki in the third round and Mack Wilson in the fifth. Kirksey should still start this season and could make any decisions about his future tough on the team if he continues to show the kind of play he has in the past.
If not, things could get interesting as general manager John Dorsey has added a lot of talent around him.