With little salary cap room and other priorities, the Ravens knew that they’d lose several key contributors from the team that beat the San Francisco 49ers last month to win Super Bowl XLVII. Their first free
agent defection came less than an hour after the market opened today as outside linebacker Paul Kruger agreed to terms on a five-year deal with the Cleveland Browns worth $40 million, according to league sources.
Kruger’s loss was expected after the 27-year-old linebacker had a breakout 2012-13 season, leading the Ravens with nine sacks to go along with 42 tackles, one interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He followed that up with 4.5 sacks in four playoff games, including two of Colin Kaepernick in the Ravens’ 34-31 Super Bowl victory.
Kruger started five games for the Ravens during the 2012-13 season as he was mostly used as a pass-rushing specialist. In four seasons after the Ravens selected Kruger in the second round out of the University of Utah in 2009, Kruger registered 15 ½ sacks in 51 games while starting six of them.
His departure could lead to an even bigger role for linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the Ravens’ top selection in last year’s draft, with Terrell Suggs rushing from the other side.
Having resigned quarterback Joe Flacco and safety James Ihedigbo, the Ravens are left with 10 unrestricted free agents. They have made re-signing inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe a priority, but they were unable to agree to a deal before Ellerbe hit the open market at 4 p.m.