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In what was a very surprising move Tuesday afternoon, the Cleveland Browns released defensive end Frostee Rucker. In March 2012, the Browns signed Rucker to a 5-year, $21 million deal. The timing of the release is money-related, which reflects a combination of the change in Cleveland's defensive philosophy next season, and the fact that Tom Heckert, the guy who orchestrated the deal, is no longer here:
Source confirmed $2 M of Frostee Rucker's $2.5 M base salary would have been fully guaranteed had he been on the roster tomorrow.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) February 5, 2013
Because of the large signing bonus he received last season, Rucker ends up pocketing $6.1 million for one year of service with the Browns, according to Caplan. Obviously, when a guy signs a deal like that, the idea is that he is with the team long-term, which is probably what would've happened had Dick Jauron and the traditional 4-3 defense stayed in place.
Rucker was a consistent, solid player at defensive end for Cleveland last year. He worked in a rotation with veteran defensive end Juqua Parker, who is also a free agent. Rucker finished the 2012 season with 48 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 pass defended, and 1 forced fumble.
Scott Petrak of the Chronicle-Telegram speculates that Rucker won't be the last cut we see before the start of free agency:
Rucker was good team, locker room guy. Wanted to be here. CEO banner didn't want to spend $ for aging 4-3 end. Won't be last cut b4 f agency— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) February 5, 2013
Before the end of the season, the Browns waived CB Dimitri Patterson, another player Heckert signed last offseason. Patterson had $6 million guaranteed on his deal, so between him and Rucker, it looks like the Browns spent $12 million on those two guys alone. There was also the "one-game payday" for RB Brandon Jackson, who is now a free agent.
Are you disappointed with Rucker's release, or do you think he was expendable given the team's changing defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton?