Packers release linebacker Christian Kirksey, tackle Rick Wagner in salary-cap moves

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
View Comments

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers released linebacker Christian Kirksey and right tackle Rick Wagner on Friday in moves that will reduce their salary cap number by around $9 million and get them much closer to being in line with the 2021 cap.

There are still a lot of uncertainties about what the salary cap will be, but the NFL recently increased the minimum from $175 million to $180 million. Team caps for ’21 are still being calculated, but the Packers knew going into the offseason they would have more than $207 million in 2021 cap charges on the books.

Friday’s moves come on the heels of the Packers guaranteeing left tackle David Bakhtiari’s $11 million roster bonus due in March, which dropped his ’21 cap number from $19 million to $11 million. It was a move the Packers planned on making to lower their ’21 cap when they structured Bakhtiari’s four-year, $92 million extension last November.

Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) tackles Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) during their football game Sunday, January 3, 2021, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. 
Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reported the Packers had officially guaranteed the bonus.

Together with the release of Kirksey and Wagner, they are probably around $10 million to $11 million over the cap with a credit of about $3.7 million from leftover cap space in ’20 still pending. There could be other charges or credits the Packers will realize before the fiscal year starts March 17 and it’s possible the cap number could go up also.

Regardless, the Packers are getting closer to being in line with the cap. If they want to re-sign some of their free agents such as running back Aaron Jones and center Corey Linsley, they will need a lot more cap room and so some significant moves are still pending.

Releasing Kirksey became possible when rookie Krys Barnes took over the starting position for which Kirksey was signed in the offseason (two years, $16 million). Kirksey was considered a stop-gap veteran who could hold the fort until the Packers rebuilt their inside linebacker position.

The emergence of Barnes helped them move on from Kirksey.

Releasing Wagner came as no surprise given the Packers’ salary-cap issues. Given he is 32 and battled through elbow and knee injuries last season, there’s no guarantee Wagner will play another year.

Regardless, the decision clears the salary Wagner was scheduled to make and leaves $1.75 million of pro-rated signing bonus that was already on the books for 2021.

The Packers releasing offensive tackle Rick Wagner came as no surprise given the 32-year-old's elbow and knee injuries last season.

The Packers signed Wagner to a two-year, $11 million deal in March and more than got their money’s worth. Even though Wagner could not play himself into the starting lineup in training camp, he wound up starting 11 of 18 games and replacing an injured player in three other games.

He became a critical piece of the offensive line when Bakhtiari broke a rib early in the season and tore his ACL late in the year. Wagner started the final seven games at right tackle and ended up playing 611 snaps in the regular season (58.8%).

His ability to hold up as a pass blocker allowed offensive line coach Adam Stenavich to move other players around to fill in spots when Bakhtiari, center Corey Linsley and guard Lucas Patrick missed time.

Wagner’s solid play did not last into the NFC championship game, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' outside rushers had their way with him. He wasn’t alone in allowing pressure that day.

The Packers do not have enough tackles to breathe easy, especially with Bakhtiari likely to start the year on the physically unable to perform list. Veteran Billy Turner is the only other true tackle with starting experience on the roster, so general manager Brian Gutekunst will likely move to bolster the position in the offseason.

View Comments