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Free agent profile: LB Christian Kirksey

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency officially kicks off on March 18. For the next few weeks up until then, we’ll be profiling some players on the market that the Ravens could potentially target. This time, the focus is on LB Christian Kirksey from the Cleveland Browns.

You can view past free agent profiles here:


UPDATE: The Green Bay Packers have signed Kirksey to a two-year, $16 million contract, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

Player: Christian Kirksey

Positon: Linebacker

Age: 27

2019 stats: 11 tackles, two TFL (2 games played)

PFF grade: 48.3

Market Value: N/A

After being released by the Browns last week, the Ravens are one of several teams who have reportedly shown interest in LB Christian Kirksey. As of Friday, Kirksey had met with multiple teams already including the Raiders, Packers and Bills.

Kirksey, 27, was selected by Cleveland in the third round of the 2014 draft. His was productive in his first two seasons as a rotational player but emerged as a full-time starter in 2016 and 2017, where he played 100% of the team’s defensive snaps and started 32 games.

During this two-year span, Kirksey racked up a combined 286 tackles, 17 TFL, 13 QB hits and six sacks. He was on his way to another strong statistical year in 2018 but only played seven games before suffering an injury. This past season, Kirksey underwent season-ending surgery on a torn pectoral tendon after just two games.

Kirksey’s PFF grade in 2019 is a bit misleading, but his recent injury history evidently made him a cap casualty for the Browns this offseason. Kirksey had signed a four-year contract extension with the team back in 2017 but is now set to hit the free agent market.

It’s been documented already that inside linebacker is, at least on paper, a position of great need for the Ravens this offseason. Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes are free agents and it’s unclear whether either player is likely to return to Baltimore, leaving L.J. Fort as the only contributor at the position from last season still under contract.

When healthy, Kirksey has demonstrated that he’s arguably one of the better linebackers in the league in terms of athleticism and raw talent. Injuries have held him back recently but he could prove to be a potential bargain in free agency if he can put it all together.

Kirksey is a six-year veteran but will be only 28 years old at the start of the 2020 season, which suggests he should still have plenty of prime-level football left in the tank.

Highlights:

Fit with the Ravens:

It seems very unlikely that the Ravens re-sign both Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor. Even if one them return, an avenue for significant playing time exists at linebacker. Kirksey would seemingly be a solid fit in “Wink” Martindale’s scheme and his sideline-to-sideline athleticism is superior to that of many other defensive players on the roster.

Verdict:

Kirksey is far from a sure bet but certainly worth a flier on the open market, depending on how much money he’s demanding. Signing Kirksey in free agency would diminish the need to address the position in the draft, although it’s fair to argue that Kirksey’s skill set could be somewhat replicated by a rookie linebacker - even if picked in the middle rounds.