The Packers have officially started trimming the roster. With free agency less than a month away Brian Gutekunst has begun his moves to combat the reduced salary cap. This move could mean many things, but it clearly means the Packers will be looking for offensive tackle help now considering David Bakhtiari is recovering from a torn ACL.
Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner were both signings from the previous off-season. Both played a role in the team’s success this season but were clear potential cap casualties. Kirksey started all 11 games he appeared in while Wagner started nine. Wagner played 59 percent of the team’s snaps in 2020.
Kirksey had an alright season on the stat sheet but struggled in coverage giving up many big plays. However, towards the end of the season, he seemed to find a rhythm and played very well. He had:
- Two Interceptions
- Two Sacks
- Four Passes Defended
- 77 Tackles
- Two Tackles for a Loss
Both players will hit free agency and will no doubt have a market after having productive years. Unfortunately, in a year when the salary cap is decreasing average production makes it difficult for the Packers to retain them.
The release of Wagner will without a doubt lead the Packers to find depth at offensive tackle. However, the release of Kirksey may be less impactful to his respective position group. Last season the Packers seemed to hit on draft pick Kamal Martin, and undrafted free agent Krys Barnes. Barnes started 10 games while Martin started six. Both dealt with minor injuries, but when healthy proved to be good downhill linebackers. Both produced in the run game as rookies and will only get better.
The moves will save the Packers 10.25 million leaving them with around 10 million more to clear up to reach the cap. Assuming they restructure deals, as they did with Bakhtiari, and extend certain players, they should be under the cap easily. However, clearing up the money could be in the motive of signing a free agent. The Packers have been rumored as the top landing spot for J.J Watt. This move could potentially correspond with signing Watt, or maybe even getting Aaron Jones extended. What Brian Gutekunst does is yet to be seen, but he could end up making a splash and get Watt in green and gold.
The Packers are trying to hit the cap number which has not been finalized yet. Whether the moves are in an attempt to sign Watt or not, they tell how the Packers feel about the linebacker position going into 2021.