Seattle’s Bruce Irvin had eight sacks in 2012, most of any rookie in the NFL while Baltimore’s Paul Kruger had 6.5 in his first three seasons combined.
Yet as the NFL takes its first steps into the offseason, there is a sense among some fans in Seattle that Irvin is an inadequate to start at defensive end while Kruger should be a free-agent priority for the Seahawks.
After all, Seattle enters this offseason with the stated desire of improving the pass rush for a second consecutive year and the fact Chris Clemons underwent reconstructive knee surgery only adds to the concern at that position.
Kruger has played four seasons in the NFL, turns 27 this month and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. With all the uncertainties in Baltimore – starting with the fact quarterback Joe Flacco is unsigned on down to the future of veterans like safety Ed Reed and receiver Anquan Boldin – there’s a fairly decent chance that he will reach the open market as opposed to players like Chicago’s Henry Melton and Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson who are likely to be signed or affixed with one of those pesky franchise tags.
Kruger had nine sacks in the regular season and another 4.5 in the playoffs in what constitute the best playoff push for any Raven not named Joe Flacco.
It’s an impressive total, and Kruger’s play this season shows he is a viable cog on a championship defense. The question is whether he’s worth the price. Because the whole world was watching him get those pair of sacks in the Super Bowl, and he’s going to be a top target in free agency. But the timing of his spurt of sack production should be enough to give anyone pause before breaking out the checkbook.
In the regular season, Kruger racked up 7.5 of his nine sacks over the final eight games. That’s more than just convenient for a guy at the end of the contract, and it triggers alarm bells if a guy found a higher gear only when there was a pending financial incentive. But that wouldn’t be my biggest concern.
Kruger’s late-season spurt in production started only after Terrell Suggs returned to the lineup, recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.
Suggs missed the first six games of the regular season. In those six games, Kruger had a total of 1.5 sacks. Suggs returned in Week 7 for the Ravens’ loss at Houston. At that point, Kruger had played 42 games for the Ravens and totaled eight sacks. Suggs’ return provided a kickstart.
Now why is that significant? Well, it points to the possibility that Kruger is a complimentary component of a pass rush. The guy who’s able to get home when the opponent is truly worried or focused on a teammate.
There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a question of price, though. Do you want to pay a top-shelf price for a player whose biggest sack totals came only after a more proficient teammate returned to the lineup?