By Tom Withers | Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- The Browns' switch on defense started with Frostee Rucker being shifted out the door.
Rucker was released by Cleveland on Tuesday, the first major move as the Browns change from a 4-3 defense to a multi-front system under new coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Ray Horton.
A top free-agent signing by Cleveland last year, Rucker started all 16 games and finished with 48 tackles and four sacks in his one season with the Browns. Rucker made $6 million last season and $2 million of his $2.5 million contract for 2013 would have been guaranteed if he was still on the roster Wednesday, according to a report by TheSidelineView.com.
The 29-year-old Rucker spent six seasons with Cincinnati before signing last March with Cleveland. He established himself as a leader in the Browns' locker room and Rucker was a staunch supporter of coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert, who were both fired after the Browns went 5-11 last season.
Last week, Chudzinski and Horton, who spent the past two seasons with Arizona, said the Browns hope to have an aggressive defense next season. Horton tried to downplay concerns about the team changing schemes, saying several times that he was simply looking for "big men that can run and little men that can hit."
Apparently, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Rucker did not fit into either of those groups.
The Bengals selected Rucker, who played at Southern Caliornia, in the third round (No. 91 overall) of the 2006 draft.
Rucker's departure could signal the beginning of a busy offseason for the Browns, the first one under new owner Jimmy Haslam. At the Super Bowl last week, Haslam said the Browns would be active in free agency if the moves made sense.
"I think we'll be selective in what we do in free agency, but if there's some talent out there that matches our needs and it's at the right dollar level, then, I think we'll probably make some moves," he said. "I don't think you'll see us making any big, splashy, high-priced moves because I think we've said all along, we're going to build through the draft."