The Cleveland Browns have released veteran outside linebacker Christian Kirksey. Kirksey had two years remaining on his contract but has missed a combined 23 games over the past two seasons. The move will save the organization roughly $7.5 million in salary cap space. 

Kirksey, 27, was a third-round draft choice out of Iowa in 2014. He did not miss a single regular-season game during his first four seasons. The Missouri native averaged 143 tackles in 2016-17, which led to a four-year deal worth $38 million in May 2017. His Browns career ends with 484 tackles, 11.5 sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. A key member of the locker room and the community, Kirksey's absence will be felt more off the field. He was the team's recipient of the 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year award. 

Executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry thanked the linebacker for his time. 

"Christian Kirksey has been a vital member of our organization for the last six seasons because of his contributions on and off the field. 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 thanked the city and its fans for supporting him over the years.

Guard Joel Bitonio is the only remaining member of the 2014 Browns draft class that featured quarterback Johnny Manziel and cornerback Justin Gilbert in the first round.

The Browns had already reached a decision to allow starting inside linebacker Joe Schobert to leave in free agency as well so there is a lot of turnover along that unit. According to, the addition of $7.5 million would bring Cleveland's salary cap space total up roughly $65.8 million; good for the seventh month in the league. The team seems to be creating more holes than they are capable of filling over the course of one offseason.