The team announced that it had terminated the contracts of Kruger and quarterback Austin Davis on Monday as part of its roster cutdown.
Kruger, 30, who received a five-year, $40 million contract in 2013, had 11 sacks in 2014 but only 2.5 last season. He issued a statement Monday, thanking the Browns organization and its "relentless fans."
"My experience has been amazing and I will miss wearing a Browns #99," he also wrote. "Although completely miss handled, unfortunate and absolutely the wrong decision to release me I do wish the Browns and especially my teammate brothers great success."
Though Kruger's numbers last season were affected by his move from the weak side to the strong side, the new Browns regime simply felt that the team wasn't getting the production it needed from him. In the preseason, he was not what the team hoped, and the new coaching staff was looking at reducing his role in favor of younger players.
Cleveland won four, seven and three games in Kruger's three seasons with the team. He was paid $27 million in signing bonus and salary and had 18 sacks.
"It was a shock," cornerback Joe Haden said. "But this business, I'm telling you, never surprises you. You always have one or two every year that you kind of scratch your head on. That's a dude that you thought was going to be a part of the change. It's a business. It's a tough business."
The Browns are going young, and Kruger's release allows him to sign with another team before the final cut to 53 players on Saturday. His release saves the Browns $5.3 million against the salary cap.
How the Browns handle Kruger's spot will be interesting. Nate Orchard is listed as a starter at one outside linebacker position, and rookie Emmanuel Ogbah is listed as Kruger's backup on the depth chart. Ogbah has impressed, but he has mainly been used as a down lineman this preseason. The Browns also drafted Joe Schobert from Wisconsin.
The roster turnover under team executive Sashi Brown and coach Hue Jackson has been significant, as veterans Kruger, Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby all were released and former first-round pick Barkevious Mingo was traded to the New England Patriots.
Davis played in three games for the Browns last season, making two starts and losing them both. His most extensive action came in 2014 when he played in 10 games for the Rams, starting eight contests and going 3-5 with 2,001 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.