In another sign that they are beginning to turn things around, the Cleveland Browns locked up linebacker Christian Kirksey to a four-year contract extension worth $38 million.
Kirksey, a fourth-year linebacker out of the University of Iowa, selected 71st overall in the third round, finished with 148 tackles while starting all 16 games, third most in NFL. The 6’2, 235-pound Kirksey has been a consistent force on the Cleveland defense in logging 271 career tackles, eight sacks, seven passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery, per ClevelandBrowns.com
The extension, which comes with $20 million guaranteed helps solidify a promising linebacker corps under new defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams. The new deal also shows the reason behind the quiet confidence that is beginning to brim from Berea.
First, the Browns trade for and sign former new England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins to a four-year $50-plus contract extension, then Cleveland selected defensive end Myles Garrett and strong safety Jabrill Peppers before finally signing veteran cornerback Jason McCourty, and suddenly the once-woeful Cleveland browns defense suddenly has the look of a sleeper top-ten unit.
While Kirksey may not get the proverbial limelight like others at his position, he has quietly developed into one of Cleveland’s defensive leaders and a solid linebacker in pass coverage. With training camp set to start, it is a good move on both parties to agree to a deal, as Kirksey was set to become an unrestricted free agent, and remove any possible outside distractions for a rebuilding team.
Locking up a quality player such as Kirksey—who at 24—is set to go into his prime, is a big piece in the Browns rebuilding puzzle.