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You may have never heard of Christian Kirksey, but he just got a big extension from the Browns. Here's why.

Christian Kirksey isn’t a household name, but now he’s getting paid like one.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Christian Kirksey is now one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL, despite 29 starts under his belt and no trips to the Pro Bowl. On Tuesday, the Cleveland Browns gave the 24-year-old linebacker a four-year extension worth $38 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“Christian Kirksey brings a lot to this football team,” Browns executive vice president Sashi Brown said in a statement announcing the deal. “He’s another example of a young talented football player that we want to be part of our organization for the long term ... He has done everything asked of him since he was drafted and has developed into an impact starter. We are very pleased to get a new deal with him in place.”

On the surface, the numbers of Kirksey’s deal exceed the four-year, $35.5 million contract the New England Patriots gave inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower — a player who has been voted to a Pro Bowl and has plenty more name recognition.

But Hightower may have received much more if a physical hadn’t scared the New York Jets away from an offer of about $20 million more. And the four-year extension for Kirksey adds to the one-year, $765,000 salary, making it a five-year, $38.765 million for the Browns linebacker.

Is he worth that? That’s to be determined. But it’s a good risk for Cleveland to take, especially with an impending move to weakside linebacker for Kirksey in the Browns’ new 4-3 defensive scheme.

A contract averaging just under $8 million per season would’ve been top 10 for an inside linebacker, but it’s not even top 20 among all linebackers. Yet, it’s a good habit of paying players for what they will do in the future rather than what they’ve done in the past.

One thing Kirksey has definitely already proved he can do is tackle. Only Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks and Zach Brown of the Buffalo Bills finished the 2016 season with more tackles.

He was also the league leader in Pro Football Focus’ defensive stops statistic — defined as “a play that results in a failure for the offense.”

The concern is that big money at linebacker is typically reserved for players who can create chaos and make game-changing plays. He’ll have to do more than rack up tackles to continue blossoming into the player whom the Browns clearly believe him to be.

But Kirksey will turn 25 before the 2017 season, and the team now has him under contract for five more seasons at a completely affordable price. He’ll be paired with Jamie Collins — the former Patriots linebacker who was recently given a four-year, $50 million deal by the Browns — for the long term.

Kirksey and Joel Bitonio are the only survivors of the Browns’ disastrous 2014 NFL draft class, but now he’ll be tied to the franchise’s new regime.

Chalk this one up as a win for the Browns.