Former Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey was not a free agent for too long after agreeing to a deal with the Green Bay Packers.
Fans of Christian Kirksey, though disappointed to see him leave the Cleveland Browns, will be thrilled that he signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Green Bay Packers, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
This is a tremendous deal for Kirksey. Not only is it a very lucrative deal economically, but it reunites him with his former head coach Mike Pettine, who is now the defensive coordinator for the Pack and got rave reviews last year. Pettine knows Kirksey better than any football man alive, so it is not surprising that he would wind up there.
Truthfully, the numbers are a bit shocking given that Kirksey has had injury issues the past two years, with a pulled hamstring in 2018 and a torn pectoral muscle in 2019. For that reason, thinking was that he was due for a major pay cut this year. However, he fared very well. Kudos to his agent, Jonathan Perzley of SportStars. An average yearly salary of $8 million per year will probably place him in the top-30 or 35 among NFL linebackers.
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At this time, information is not available on the amount that is guaranteed, or whether the contract is back-loaded to make it more cap friendly.
For those who doubt the value the Kirksey has, consider the following tribute from former teammate Joe Thomas in the form of a tweet:
Frankly, this fan whiffed on believing that there was a chance that Kirksey could be re-signed by the Browns at a significantly lower rate. However, rather than criticize the Packers for overspending, let's just say he was a classy player and great member of the community. If his contract money is a little high compared to what his value is on paper, maybe there is justification.
Kirksey has had success both in the 3-4 as an inside linebacker and in the 4-3 as an outside linebacker, as well as a middle linebacker. He fits in well with Pettine's schemes that bring pressure on the quarterback. Pettine loves linebackers in general and has evolved his defense from the base 3-4, often using only two true linemen with two outside linebackers and as many as three inside linebackers. Kirksey should be able to find a home there.
This move makes sense from the Browns' standpoint also. Yes, they will miss not having Kirksey on the field, in the locker room and in the community. But on the other hand they cleared $7.5 million to spend on other players, and perhaps they believe to an extent in their young linebacking corps, consisting of Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki and Willie Harvey.
The Browns did not play well up front in 2019. The Browns believe Myles Garret is a superstar, but as a whole the front-seven underperformed in 2019, so it is hard to justify high salaries for Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, Joe Schobert (who is also leaving for free agency and will enjoy a big payday by doing so) and Kirksey. If the team is going to give up 2,315 yards and 5.0 yards/carry, they might as well go with lower priced players rather than to continue to pay premium dollars for veterans to underperform.