The Browns are making a long-term commitment to one of their own young defenders.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that linebacker Christian Kirksey signed on Tuesday a four-year, $38 million contract extension packed with $20 million in guaranteed cash.
The team later confirmed the signing, with executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown saying in a statement that Kirksey represents “another example of a young talented football player that we want to be part of our organization for the long-term.”
After notching a whopping 148 tackles and 2.5 sacks as an inside linebacker last season, Kirksey is preparing to man the weak outside spot in new coordinator Gregg Williams’ 4-3 scheme.
“A linebacker’s a linebacker, you’re going to be in the act, you’re going to be in positions to make a lot of plays,” Kirksey said earlier this month, per The Plain Dealer. “I know Gregg, he knows what he’s doing on his defense, he knows the best spot to put me, so I’ll be ready to just play wherever he wants me to play.”
Finishing 2016 as the 22nd-ranked player at his position, Kirksey thrived against the run but was victimized in coverage. That will need to change this season, but Kirksey finished the campaign in better shape than plenty of his defensive teammates.
He was hardly the headliner from that ill-fated crop, but Kirksey has won over this new Browns regime. For his next trick, the young linebacker will be asked to earn his rich contract with another season of productive starts.