Browns' first signing is a questionable one

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
6:37
PM ET
The Browns' new regime of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi made their first free-agent signing, agreeing to terms on a five-year, $40 million contract with linebacker Paul Kruger less than an hour into free agency.

Here's what to like: the Browns get a pass rusher in his prime and take away the sacks leader from the Super Bowl champions, who happen to be in their division.

Here's what you have to question: the Browns paid an average of $8 million per season for a player who has six career starts.

Kruger, 27, is a solid player. He isn't a special one. You just have to temper your expectations for him or you'll come away disappointed. It's hard to do that when a team makes this type of financial commitment to a player.

Kruger is a part-time player, not an every-down one. He doesn't have the size to hold up against the run, which is why the Ravens used a second-round pick on Courtney Upshaw last year.

The Browns could have pursued the Lions' Cliff Avril, who has 29 sacks in three seasons. Instead, they went with Kruger, who has 14.5 the past two seasons.

Kruger had a breakout season for the Ravens last year, although it's not as impressive if you break down the statistics. In eight games without Terrell Suggs, Kruger had four sacks. In 12 games (including playoffs) with Suggs getting the attention of the defense, Kruger recorded 9.5 sacks. In other words, when defenses turned their attention to Suggs, Kruger did his most damage.

It's easy to criticize the Browns for overpaying for Kruger. But the Browns did have the cap room to afford it. The Browns still have space to further add to the defense. If Kruger ends up just being a piece of the Browns' new defense, this is a good addition. If Kruger is supposed to be the key piece, the Browns will end up disappointed.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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