The Browns vowed last month to dial up the heat on opposing quarterbacks and Browns new CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi backed it up on the first day of free agency.
An hour into the frenzy, they signed the premier pass-rusher on the market, former Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger, who led the Ravens with nine sacks last season and then continued to terrorize quarterbacks in Baltimore's Super Bowl run with 4.5 more in the postseason.
Kruger (6-4, 270), signed a five-year deal worth $40 million, with a reported $20 million guaranteed.
Hours later, they added former Raiders defensive tackle Desmond Bryant, 27, who will provide a menacing push up the middle, which quarterbacks hate. Bryant (6-6, 311) signed a five-year contract worth $34 million with $15 million guaranteed. The two defenders will pack some punch in Ray Horton's new attack-minded 3-4 scheme.
In signing Kruger, 27, the Browns also weakened the Super Bowl champion Ravens -- their AFC North nemesis and the team that used to be the Browns.
"We are very excited about the addition of Paul Kruger to our team," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said in a release. "He is a talented linebacker who is going to make an immediate impact on our defense. When you put on the film, you see physicality, explosive pass rush and a high motor. He has been very productive for the Ravens, and proved it at the highest level last season in the playoffs."
Kruger, the Browns' primary target in free agency, was the first major acquisition of Banner and Lombardi. It also frees up the Browns to focus on any number of positions with their No. 6 overall pick in the draft.
"Paul is the type of player we were looking to bring on at the outset of free agency, and we are thrilled that we were able to sign him," said Banner. "Not only do we feel strongly about his ability as a football player, but he will add a great deal from a leadership standpoint as well. He has exhibited marked improvement each year of his career and we believe he can help the Cleveland Browns for many years to come."
Kruger got off to a slow start last season because of an excruciating back injury suffered in September, but once he recovered, he was a rolling ball of thunder. Kruger had only 1.5 sacks in the first seven games of the season, but 7.5 in the final nine. Critics charge that most of his sacks came when fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs was on the field and drawing double teams, but the Browns are confident they've acquired one of the top pass-rushers in the game.
ProFootballFocus.com ranked Kruger as the sixth-best of any 3-4 outside linebacker, and his 12.2 Pass Rushing Productivity was the highest at his position. He also led the Ravens with 55 pressures in 2012, while no other Ravens linebacker had more than 21.
Browns get pass-rush help in Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant
Cleveland Plain Dealer | Mar 13