CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns have plans for the future, and they don’t include Paul Kruger.
Kruger was Cleveland’s most proficient pass rusher and one of its most experienced defensive players. The 30-year-old linebacker’s contract was terminated Monday by a team intent on rebuilding with youth.
His departure is a big surprise given the Browns’ lack leadership on defense and that Kruger is one of the team’s most respected players. Just last week, Sashi Brown, the team’s executive vice president of football operations, said the team valued its veterans.
Kruger started 46 games and made 18 sacks in three seasons for Cleveland, which signed him as a free agent in 2013 after he helped the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl.
On Twitter, Kruger thanked the Browns and wished his “teammate brothers” success but expressed his disappointment. He said the release was mishandled, calling it “unfortunate and absolutely the wrong decision.”
The Browns, who played poorly in an exhibition loss to Tampa Bay on Friday, began their youth movement during the offseason by releasing linebacker Karlos Dansby, safety Donte Whitner and others. Kruger acknowledged his relief in surviving those initial cuts and wondered how long he might remain with Cleveland.
Kruger had just 2 1/2 sacks last season — he had 11 in 2014 — as the Browns struggled to find the right role for him. Last week, the Browns traded linebacker Barkevious Mingo. Rookies Emmanuel Ogbah or Joe Schobert could take Kruger’s starting spot, opposite second-year linebacker Nate Orchard.
The Browns also terminated the contracts of defensive end Nick Hayden and quarterback Austin Davis. The team waived incumbent kicker Travis Coons, giving Patrick Murray the starting job.
Running back Glenn Winston (shoulder) and nose tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample (shoulder) were placed on injured reserve.
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Kruger started 46 games and made 18 sacks in three seasons for Cleveland and was considered one of the team’s leaders. At left is 49ers’ Erik Pears (71). (AP Photo/David Richard, File)