7 NFL Teams That Should Sign Paul Kruger
The Cleveland Browns parted ways with 30-year old star pass rusher Paul Kruger on Monday, giving a weak free agency crop a talented player that still knows how to get after the quarterback.
Report: Browns cutting Paul Kruger https://t.co/vr7xmtJw1j
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 29, 2016
The move was a shock on the surface, even with Kruger’s performance taking a dip in 2015, with just 2.5 sacks a year after registering 11. The former Super Bowl champion follows a long list of highly paid Browns players that arguably could have still provided Cleveland with a strong impact, but were part of a “cleaning house”, of sorts.
Kruger acknowledged as much on his way out, too, suggesting he was mishandled while in Cleveland and that the team was wrong to release him:
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) August 29, 2016
Still Has Value
Kruger may not have liked how his time in Cleveland came to an end, or he didn’t love the idea that he is now set to lose over $8 million in salary he was due for 2016.
Whatever the case, there is an argument that Kruger wasn’t properly utilized for much of his Cleveland career. For one, the guy is not good in coverage and was often used as a stand-up linebacker in the Browns’ 3-4 base defense.
Kruger absolutely provided value as an outside edge rusher, but he was always a liability in coverage and ultimately wasn’t even consistent enough in the area he was good at to be a reliable star player in his final season with the team.
Still in his prime and now out to prove himself, however, it’s very possible Kruger could bounce back in a big way in 2016. Where and how remains unclear, but Kruger has the size, strength and versatility to continue playing on the edge of a 3-4 or even switch to defensive end in a base 4-3 defense.
Because of that ability to play in different systems, Kruger shouldn’t have much trouble finding work quickly – and for a contending team.
Here’s a look at seven NFL teams that make good sense for him to sign with for 2016:
New England Patriots
New England could be the perfect spot for multiple reasons. The biggest could be the fact that they run a hybrid defense, one that could properly utilize Kruger almost strictly as a pass-rusher.
There is also a huge need for pass rush help in New England as the moment, too, as the Pats have dealt with some injuries and traded away star pass rusher Chandler Jones this off-season. The need and system make sense, plus New England gives Kruger a chance to chase another title for the first time in three years.
Kruger could also always decide to go back home to the team that drafted him. Kruger followed the cash to the division rival Browns back in 2013, but enjoyed two of his best seasons in 2011 and 2013 with the Ravens, when he totaled 14 sacks.
Baltimore is where Kruger was constantly in a competitive environment and where he won a Super Bowl, too, so if the Ravens will have him, this has to be near the top of his list.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers seemingly have the pieces on offense to make a title run in 2016, but it’s the defensive side of the ball that is constantly a question mark.
Green Bay actually rushed the quarterback quite well in 2016 and has a nice stable of pass rushers, but if Kruger can come in at the right price, he could be a fantastic, experienced edge rusher to use. It’s unclear if Kruger would work for less money and take on a smaller role, of course.
Should Kruger be willing to work in a 4-3 defense with his hand in the dirt, perhaps someone like the Panthers could come calling.
Carolina already has a top level defense (6th in sacks in 2015), but they don’t have much depth beyond Charles Johnson and Kony Ealy. Kruger would be taking less money for a schematic switch and a smaller role, but this could be a great spot for him to chase a ring and make a big impact.
New York Giants
The story is similar with the G-Men, who still badly need to make sure their pass rush is up to snuff. That hasn’t been the case in recent years and 2015 showed that again, with New York registering just 23 sacks (30th in the league).
New York did bring in Olivier Vernon and still has JPP, but adding an experienced talent like Kruger could be just the move they need to give themselves that elite pass rush depth that helped them win two Super Bowls. Again, Kruger would have to be open to less cash, a system change and a smaller role, but it could be a match made in heaven.
Another 4-3 team here, and the Cowboys are possibly worse off than anyone on this list. They were bad when it came to getting after the quarterback last year (just 31 sacks) and have gone through a lot of loss since last season.
Not only did they let troubled defensive end Greg Hardy walk in free agency, but they also saw young talents such as Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence get handed suspensions to start the season. Now with Tony Romo (back) hurt, Dallas could use some good news.
It’s a schematic change, but Kruger would probably get some cash by going to Big D and at least to start the year, would be needed in a huge role.
One other interesting option could be the Colts, as they still need help on the edge of their 3-4 system and Kruger knows Chuck Pagano’s defense from their days together in Baltimore.
Enough makes sense for a pairing here, and Indy might even have a shot at making a deep playoff run with the extra pressure on the quarterback Kruger could provide.
Paul Kruger Prediction
There are other teams like the Bills, Redskins and Bears that could look for a boost via Kruger, but if he signs a deal in the near future, we’re guessing it will be with one of these seven teams.
If we had to hammer homer a Paul Kruger prediction early, we’d guess he’ll go to the Patriots or head home to the Ravens. Kruger knows Baltimore and spent most of his career there, so a reunion could make a ton of sense. New England also is great at bringing on players other teams leave for dead, while they also have a clear need and Kruger could fit their system beautifully.
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