Could Christian Kirksey re-sign with the Cleveland Browns?
Christian Kirksey became a cap casualty for the Cleveland Browns this offseason, but is there a chance he re-signs with the team he played six seasons for?
Christian Kirksey‘s early out from the Cleveland Browns might allow the team to offer a reduced contract to the veteran linebacker, depending on how things go for the team as well as the player.
Nobody was angry with Kirksey, and Kirksey has had two years to prepare for the possibility that the Browns might not want him at the high level he was being paid at. Although disappointed by the loss of millions of dollars, he and his agent, highly respected Jonathan Perzley of SportStars, are realists. This is purely a business move, and there is no acrimony on either side. Kirksey, as far as anyone in the Dawg Pound knows, loves Cleveland and there are no indications that he has made any enemies in the front office.
Kirksey had surgery in 2019 to repair a torn pectoral tendon, and in 2018 he was placed on injured reserve due to a pulled hamstring. There is every possibility that he can come back from those injuries. Kirksey was released by the Browns on March 10. He has been injured the past two seasons, though rumors of his total demise with the Browns may be slightly premature.
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In 2017, Kirksey and the Browns reached an agreement on a $38 million deal, with a $6 million signing bonus and a total of $20 million guaranteed, according to Spotrac.com. By terminating the deal now, the Browns saved $7.55 million versus the salary cap in non-guaranteed salary. That was just too much money to save on a linebacker who has not had a good year since 2017. That year, he tied for fourth in the NFL in total tackles with 138, just a few behind Joe Schobert, who tied for first with 144 tackles.
Like Schobert, Kirksey’s numbers were impressive, but his grades from Pro Football Focus have been nothing to write home about. PFF views both Schobert and Kirksey as above average starters, though the Dawg Pound holds both of them in very high esteem.
An article from the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that pectoral ruptures are on the rise in the NFL, with only 10 reported from 2000-2010, and 55 cases from 2010-2017. However, a key finding is that 85.4 percent of those who received surgery were able to return to the NFL. While this fan is definitely not an expert, it sounds like the odds are good that Kirksey can return to his previous form. This season, he will be all of 28-years-old, not 40. There is a pretty good chance that Kirksey will come all the way back.
The Browns are a team that seems to be in the process of losing Schobert. Second-year players Sione Takitaki, Mack Wilson and Willie Harvey are still improving but not where they need to be yet. The Browns are very thin at linebacker, so Kirksey is a good fit if he can be re-signed for the right price.
Is he comparable to former Brown Craig Robertson, who now plays for the Saints? If so, Kirksey might be worth somewhere between $2 million and his former rate, which was close to $10 million per year.
A few things have to fall right for Kirksey to re-sign with the Browns. First, he has to survive the next week without being signed. Kirksey’s agent needs to gauge Kirksey’s market value to see if other teams are likely to offer more than Browns are offering. That answer has to be “no” if the Browns are to re-sign him.
In that regard, the Browns did everyone a favor by releasing Kirksey a little early to allow everyone to gauge his market value. Kirksey and Perzley have already visited the Raiders and Packers, so that process is well underway. Second, if the Browns have their eye on another linebacker, they need to decide whether or not they will take themselves out of the running for his services. If they do decide to pass on other linebackers, they might be able to focus on an offer for Kirksey. Conversely if they sign a new player, that may take them out of the running for Kirksey.
Cutting Kirksey was strictly a business move based on a major contract which was appropriate at a time when there were very few stars on the team. However, after down years and missed games due to injuries, his value has declined significantly. The Browns want him back, but at a price that is closer to market value.
The essential factor is that team likes him as a 100 percent effort guy who represents the team well, and he likes the team and the city of Cleveland too. The experience factor should also not be underrated. He already knows the team, if not the new system of Joe Woods. Hence it could be a good business move to sign with the team that values him the most. That may well be the Cleveland Browns. This fan is keeping his fingers crossed.