Less than an hour into the start of free agency, the Ravens have sustained their first loss as linebacker Paul Kruger has signed a five-year deal with the Cleveland Browns.
Multiple reports are saying the contract is worth an estimated $41 million with $20 million in guaranteed money. Despite not being the Ravens’ top priority among their unrestricted free agents after quarterback Joe Flacco was inked to a $120.6 million contract, Kruger was the Ravens’ most attractive commodity on the open market and didn’t last very long after the start of free agency at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
Finishing with a team-high nine sacks in the regular season and adding 4 1/2 more in the playoffs, the 2009 second-round pick was hitting the open market at the perfect time after serving as a reserve in his first three seasons with the Ravens.
Kruger thrived in a situational pass-rusher role and saw his production increase with the mid-October return of Terrell Suggs this season. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound linebacker collected 12 sacks in the final 12 games of the season including the playoffs.
It was determined early in the offseason that Kruger’s asking price would not be met by the Ravens, who were unlikely to offer such a steep contract to a player not particularly strong against the run or in pass coverage. Kruger played in only 22 of the Ravens’ 62 defensive snaps in Super Bowl XLVII but collected two sacks in the 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Ravens will likely depend more heavily on 2012 second-round pick Courtney Upshaw, who started at the strong-side linebacker position in the base defense and played primarily in running situations. Baltimore will also look to the draft as well as young pass rushers Michael McAdoo and Adrian Hamilton to help fill the void left behind by Kruger.