Browns swipe division rival's leader in sacks, sign Kruger to five-year deal
Kruger played in 15 regular season games in 2012, starting only five, but he lead the Ravens with 9.0 sacks. He continued to impress into the playoffs, racking up 4.5 sacks in the Ravens' four postseason games.
I will say, however, that the move is a bit risky on the Browns part. Last offseason, the Dolphins signed Cameron Wake - a similar outside pass rushing presence - to a five-year contract worth only $34.53 million. Wake had 22.5 sacks over the course of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and racked up 15.0 sacks on his way to an All-Pro selection in 2012 - the first year under his new deal. The Browns gave Kruger over $6 million more than Wake received, so they are obviously expecting a lot of production out of their new free agency prize.
One concerning thing about Kruger, however, is that most of his production in 2012 came after the return of Terrell Suggs, who started at the rush linebacker spot opposite of Kruger. In the five games before Suggs returned from his preseason injury, Kruger had only 1.5 sacks. In the remaining 14 games (including the playoffs), Kruger had 12.0 sacks. You have to wonder how much of an effect Suggs had on Kruger. The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year draws a ton of attention every time he steps on the field, and Kruger likely faced a lot of one-on-one situations as a result. Those one-on-ones won't come nearly as frequently in Cleveland.
In addition, Kruger had only 6.5 sacks over his three seasons previous to 2012. I'm not saying that he'll be a bust, but I do believe it is somewhat of a risky move to pay him generously in anticipation of exceptional production.
Kruger will play outside linebacker in Cleveland opposite Jabaal Sheard. With new defensive coordinator Ray Horton employing a 3-4 defensive scheme, Kruger will be able to play a similar role to the one that he played in Baltimore. If Kruger pans out in Cleveland, they have a shot at fielding a pretty stingy defense. The Browns went through an eight game stretch last season in which they gave up only 16.6 points per game, and Kruger will give a boost to a pass rush that generated 38 sacks (11th in the league) in 2012.