Cleveland announced Tuesday it released the veteran linebacker.
"Christian Kirksey has been a vital member of our organization for the last six seasons because of his contributions on and off the field," Browns general manager Andrew Berry said, via a press release from the team. "He has been a strong leader both in our locker room and in the Cleveland community. These are difficult decisions and, in Christian's case, more challenging because of how well he has represented our team. We thank him for his dedication and wish him nothing but the best in the next phase of his career."
Kirksey's tale as a Brown is a layered one filled with positives and only one true negative, which was his inability to stay healthy. The former third-round pick out of Iowa saw his last two seasons end prematurely due to injury, with a hamstring injury landing him on injured reserve in 2018 and a torn pectoral robbing him of his 2019 campaign after just two games.
Cleveland's defense suffered in the absence of Kirksey in 2018, but the team's since-dismissed front office successfully protected against such a scenario in 2019 by drafting Mack Wilson, who filled in for Kirksey and proved the Browns could safely move on from the veteran in 2020. Thanks to a significant drop in dead cap between the 2019 and 2020 seasons -- $10.6 million to $2.4 million, to be exact, creating a net savings of $7.55 million in 2020 -- it was easy to see from early in the 2019 season that Kirksey's time in Cleveland was going to come to an end before the start of the 2020 league year.
The downside to such a parting is how Cleveland will miss Kirksey in its community. The linebacker was frequently visible at charitable events, giving his time and genuine effort in dealing with fans and those in need about as often as any player associated with the organization. He built a loyal group of fans among Cleveland's base, with many coming to training camp and games bearing a sign with some sort of relation to "Kirkoland" (also the name of his foundation), and he returned the love whenever possible.
The other downside for the Browns' locker room: The team is forced to say goodbye to a captain and the creator of the team's pregame and pre-practice "Dawg Check" chant. Then again, after the disappointment of last season, perhaps it's best if they move forward anyway.
At 28 years old, Kirksey still has good football left in him, as long as he can stay healthy. He'll just have to prove it in a city not named Cleveland for the first time in his professional career.