Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey watched with intrigue earlier this year as the team's front office re-signed standouts like Jamie Collins Sr. and Joel Bitonio to long-term contracts, making good on a vow to retain and, perhaps just as equally important, reward talent.
That dynamic is partly why Kirksey inked a four-year extension Tuesday following a breakout season that saw him blossom as a leader both on and off the field.
"We want to keep our core guys here. It just goes to show we're working on something special," Kirksey said Wednesday after practice.
"When I see them sign Joel and see them sign Jamie, in my mind, I'm like, 'They're really trying to be loyal to us' so you have to be loyal back. That's one of the reasons I stayed here. I've been here going on four years now. I want to continue to work."
Kirksey, a third-round pick in 2014, finished third in the league with a career-high 148 tackles last year and played all but two defensive snaps in 2016. During a painful 1-15 season, Kirksey was something of a unifying force and earned the team's "Good Guy Award" for his cooperation with the news media and involvement in the community.
"He's another example of a young talented football player that we want to be part of our organization for the long-term," executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said in a news release. "Chris reflects the hard work and commitment we want in our locker room. He has done everything asked of him since he was drafted and has developed into an impact starter."
The Browns take to the practice field in Berea for OTAs.
Now, Kirksey is poised to make another jump under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, whose fiery coaching style has already made an impact on the unit, and a promising group that recently added first-round draft picks in defensive end Myles Garrett (No. 1) and safety Jabrill Peppers (No. 25).
"(Gregg has) given us the opportunity to just go out there and play ball," Kirksey said. "He's given us this confidence that what we do and what we learn in the film room, just come out here and let it loose. We've all been at it since we were little kids, so he is just putting us in the best position to win."
And Kirksey, who added now isn't the time to rest on past laurels, said he's eager to see what else comes of this journey in Cleveland.
"I was drafted here and I have a lot of loyalty to this organization. This organization has been loyal to me," he said.
"I love my teammates. I love the coaches here. I really believe that Cleveland has something special and it could be bad for me to just try to play one year and walk away from this. I truly believe in my heart that we will do something good here, so that is the reason why I stayed."