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Cleveland Browns Sign OLB Paul Kruger to 5-Year, $41 Million Contract

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns didn't wait long to make their first big splash of free agency. There were rumors all morning that the Browns were closing in on a deal with Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger, and those rumors continued gaining traction throughout the day. Right when 4:00 PM ET hit, the rumors got even hotter, with just about every reporter on Twitter referring to it as a "done deal."

About a half hour into free agency, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that an agreement had been reached:

Jason La Canfora from CBS Sports reported the likely terms of the agreement:

La Canfora also notes that $20 million of Kruger's deal is guaranteed, which means that portion could count toward $4 million against the cap each year, in addition to whatever his base salary and other bonuses are.

We'll see more about how Joe Banner structured the contract in the next couple of days, but $8 million per year is a nice payday for a guy. This is a guy who did not start in his first three years in the league in Baltimore. In 2011, he started receiving more playing time, where he had 5.5 sacks as a backup.

In 2012, he saw a lot more playing time as part of a rotation, registering career highs across the board: 42 tackles, 9 sacks, 6 passes defended, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. That doesn't include the 4.5 sacks he had in the playoffs, including 2 in the Super Bowl.

Kruger has the potential to be a great signing, but I would have preferred the Browns to throw money at a guy who has been doing it for a longer period of time. Cleveland can still be expected to draft a defensive end / outside linebacker type with the No. 6 overall pick in April, because besides Jabaal Sheard, they are sorely lacking outside linebackers in the new 3-4 alignment that Ray Horton will be bringing to Cleveland.

Here is how Pro Football Focus reacted to the signing of Kruger:

Paul Kruger has signed with the Browns on a 5-year, $40m deal. That’s a lot fairer than some of the talk that had Kruger going for north of $10m a year, but it’s worth noting that Kruger still has a lot to prove. Sure he led our pass rushing productivity charts for all 3-4 outside linebackers, but he hasn’t done it as a full time starter, with Kruger noticeably struggling when Terrell Suggs was out hurt. Still it’s a big and bold move by a Browns outfit that needed to make a statement, and needed to get some pass rush. Consider them successful on both fronts.

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