With almost two days in the books in free agency, the Green Bay Packers didn’t sit on the sidelines and got in on the action. On Monday they signed both LB Christian Kirksey and RT Ricky Wagner. Tuesday, as expected, they brought back both Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow, as well as three other Exclusive Rights Free Agents. Though they might not be the big names on the market both new faces are starters in this league and fill areas of need on this roster. Having both Lazard and Kumerow maintains the depth at the wide receiver position. Let us go into detail about how the Packers were Active Early in Free Agency.
Christian Kirksey was a 3rd round draft pick by Cleveland in 2014. The Iowa product played in all 16 games for his first 4 seasons before injuries held him to 9 games the previous 2 combined. However, in 2016 and ’17, Kirksey was a budding star. He was top 10 in tackles both seasons while being an effective Blitzer and even better against the pass. When first reported, the Packers got Kirksey on a 2-year, $16 million contract. The deal is even sweeter and very team-friendly per Aaron Wilson.
Christian Kirksey (Packers) two years, $13M, $4M gtd, salaries $1.75M, $3M; $1.5M 2021 roster bonus, $1M per game roster bonuses 2020, $1.25M in roster bonuses total 2021; $250K workout bonus, $1.5M incentive annual, $1.75M Pro Bowl incentive 2021, $250K Pro Bowl escalator '21
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 16, 2020
This is a nice low-risk high upside move by Green Bay. Mike Pettine has been wanting to find is sideline to sideline guy to quarterback his defense. (Pettine was in Cleveland with Kirksey) Kirksey is that guy. He is more athletic and better against the pass then Blake Martinez was. He has good instincts and can find the ball. Add to the fact Kirksey is great in the locker room and off the field and a natural leader on it. Former teammate Joe Thomas had high praise of Kirksey as a teammate. He is a day one starter.
It’s all about health and staying healthy. Only playing 9 games over 2 seasons raises flags. If he can get back to his level of play before getting hurt, then this deal will be well worth it. Also, while I like this move, the Packers might still feel they need to invest even more in the position either early in the draft of another team-friendly add in free agency.
At Right Tackle enter UW alum, Rick Wagner. The eighth-year vet comes in with a lot of starting experience under his belt. Though injuries have lingered and hurt his play at times, Wagner has started at least 12 games every year going back to 2014. His deal is 2 years for $11 million. More importantly, he cost less than $5M against the cap. Both Wagner and Kirksey are under $10M cap hits.
Green Bay gets a bargain starter to fill the void of Bryan Bulaga. He is a starter in this league that once was the highest-paid right tackle for a reason. A lot of experience and a Wisconsin native coming home could help to get the most out of Wagner.
Again injuries have affected his play in the last few years. He is not the player Bulaga is and while he may be viewed more as a stop-gap for a year or so, the drop off shouldn’t be big enough to miss the loss of Bulaga. Certainly not at his price.
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Overall these moves are strategic salary cap moves by the Packers front office. They add 2 new starters to the team for way cheaper deals then the guys they replaced. There is a little drop off at RT but they may have struck gold with an upgrade at ILB. At the very least, they get a linebacker that fits better into their defensive scheme. Lazard is coming back and will have the opportunity to build off last year’s coming out party. Kumerow brings depth at a vet minimum deal.
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