The Cleveland Browns' 2014 NFL Draft class will always be marred by the initial association of being "the Johnny Manziel year." Browns diehards may prefer to know it as the "Joel Bitonio year." But Ray Farmer had another great pick in that draft, grabbing linebacker Christian Kirksey in the third round.
This is the end of the line for Kirksey though, as he's calling it quits from the NFL, making him the second former Browns third-round pick to do so this year.
Browns News: Christian Kirksey Retires
Christian Kirksey, a member of the Buffalo Bills practice squad now, has announced his mid-season retirement from the NFL. He hasn't been with the Browns since 2019, but that will always be the franchise he's most associated with.
Kirksey made an early impact as a rookie, playing as an every-down linebacker despite having been just the 71st overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
He went on to play 73 games (starting 54) over his six-year tenure with the Browns, racking up 484 total tackles with 11.5 sacks, 30 TFLs and 2 interceptions.
Those 484 tackles put him No. 3 in the Cleveland Browns modern era, trailing only D’Qwell Jackson (826) and Andra Davis (642).
Kirksey bounced around to the Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills to end his career, not staying more than two years with any of those franchises.
There obviously aren't too many fond memories from the Ray Farmer era (or from the couple years following it), but Kirksey's play stands out as one of the real highlights. He never made a Pro Bowl, but part of that was because the Browns were simply getting no respect in the public eye. Kirksey had an outstanding peak season in 2016, when he showed himself to be one of the league’s best run-stopping linebackers by ranking third in the NFL with a career-best 148 tackles to go with his 11 TFLs.
It's fun to think about just how good Kirksey would have been had he received the chance to play in a Jim Schwartz defense.