The Cleveland Browns cleaned out their front office and coaching staff, by and large, over the course of the offseason. And after doing that, they also began to clear out much of the roster. That process has continued late into the proceedings, trading away Barkevious Mingo. Yesterday, they released K’Waun Williams—and they also released Paul Kruger, who was expected to start this season, as he has since they signed him in three agency three years ago.
Of course, perhaps it should not be a great surprise, if you consider what little production he had to offer last season. He had just 2.5 sacks last season, and 27 tackles, though his usage rate was less than it had been during his first two seasons.
He did manage to record 11 sacks in 2014, during his second season with the Browns, but that now seems more than aberration than not, and Kruger is now on the wrong side of 30. His contract was not a particularly good one when he first signed it, so it is no surprise that the Browns would have wanted to get out from under it.
And it is not as though the Browns have not invested in the position over the course of the past few years. In fact, they list two of their young pass rushers in the starting lineup that they have drafted in the past two seasons.
Nate Orchard was a second-round draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and he already found some productivity in a rotational role. He was a situational starter already last year, and was anticipated to be a full-time starter before Kruger was released.
Starting opposite him, however, at least on their unofficial depth chart, listed on their website, is rookie second-round draft pick Emmanuel Ogbah, who has impressed the coaching staff, and has been used in multiple roles, both as an outside linebacker and as a defensive end.
Also used in a multiple role is fourth-year player Armonty Bryant, who is actually now listed along the defensive end depth, but who has primarily been an outside linebacker during his first three seasons. He has found quality production, particularly as a pass-rusher, in rotational duty.
Also in their outside linebacker depth chart are rookie Joe Schobert, drafted in the fourth round, and veteran Cam Johnson. It seems pretty obvious that the Browns are turning over to their youth at this point, and with good reason.
Over the course of the past week or so, Cleveland has gotten rid of their two most high-profile outside linebackers, a high first-round draft pick and a premium free agent signing. These are the players that should ostensibly be their starters.
Clearly, that has proven not to be the case, based on performance, and they have recognized the reality of the situation, and took action. Orchard and Ogbah may have some growing pains, but they should have more to offer in the long run than veterans who have proven less worth than their pedigree.