Could Colts Pursue Ex-Browns OLB Paul Kruger to Boost Pass Rush?

Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /
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On Monday, the Cleveland Browns released veteran pass rusher Paul Kruger, who lasted just 3 seasons in the Dawg Pound after initially inking a 5-year, $41 million deal in free agency of 2013:

It begs the question of whether the Indianapolis Colts could now be interested.

The former Baltimore Ravens standout rode his team’s Super Bowl XLVII Championship run in 2012 to “greener” pastures with the Browns, as Kruger parlayed his 4.5 sacks that postseason into a lucrative free agent contract with Cleveland as mentioned.

Dec 7, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) hits and sacks Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Kruger was called for roughing the passer on the play. The Colts beat the Browns 25-24. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) hits and sacks Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Kruger was called for roughing the passer on the play. The Colts beat the Browns 25-24. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Of course, it also means that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano already has great familiarity with Kruger, having coached him previously as defensive coordinator of the Ravens in 2011 before joining Indianapolis.

In fact, the Colts were previously linked to Kruger during the 2013 offseason before presumably losing the bidding war to the Browns–which probably has been for the best in retrospect.

However, that didn’t stop the Colts from later drafting a projected “Paul Kruger”-clone in young pass rusher, Bjoern Werner, in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. However, like the Browns signing of Kruger, that can now be safely chalked up as a failure as well.

Nevertheless, Kruger could make some sense for the Colts as a free agent signing to become a veteran pass rushing presence for the team–albeit at a much reduced rate from what he was set to bank with the Browns.

The 30 year old is coming off a somewhat underwhelming season with the Browns, in which he recorded just 2.5 sacks along with 27 tackles in 16 games (15 starts). Specifically, Kruger was Pro Football Focus 39th best pass rushing edge defender with a +76.6 pass rushing grade this past season.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t paint the entire picture:

Additionally, Kruger is just one season removed from a double-digit 11 sack season with the Browns in 2014, so it’s not as though he hasn’t been productive in his recent past.

Dec 20, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) escapes from pressure brought by Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 20, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) escapes from pressure brought by Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

With a pair of aging pass rushers in Robert Mathis and Trent Cole, as well a group of unproven pass rushers who haven’t exactly stood out in preseason, the Colts could very well look to kick the tires on Kruger if the price is right–especially given Pagano’s prior familiarity.

The Colts defense has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush so far in 3 preseason games, and Kruger already fits the Colts defensive style and scheme and has been a productive pass rusher in the past–even if he’s more role player than stud sackmaster.

No, he can’t be expected to be the savior of the Colts pass rushing woes, but at the same time, Kruger could become a part of the immediate solution–providing the Colts with another proven veteran pass rusher to enter the mix: