Packers release Rick Wagner and Christian Kirksey

The moves clear $10.25 million in salary-cap space.  

The Packers have released offensive tackle Rick Wagner and linebacker Christian Lirksey. 

From the team's release:

Kirksey (6-2, 235) started all 11 regular-season games he appeared in during his one year with the Packers, finishing tied for No. 2 on the team with 78 tackles (47 solo). He also saw action in both postseason contests with one start. Kirksey was originally selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round (No. 71 overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft out of the University of Iowa. Over seven seasons with the Browns, he played in 73 games with 54 starts, registering 463 tackles (289 solo), 11.5 sacks, two interceptions, 16 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Kirksey served as a team captain for three years (2017-19) and was the Browns' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2018. He registered the second-most tackles (281) in the NFL from 2016-17 (per press-box totals), including a career-best 143 in 2016.

Wagner (6-6, 315) played one season for the Packers, appearing in 16 regular-season games with nine starts and starting both postseason contests. He helped Green Bay rank tied for No. 2 in the NFL in sacks allowed (21) in 2020, the fourth fewest by Green Bay in a 16-game season. Wagner was part of a line that allowed one sack or zero sacks in a league-best 13 games, tied for the most in team history (2004), including four zero-sack games, the most by Green Bay since 2008 (four). He was originally chosen in the fifth round (No. 168 overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens out of the University of Wisconsin. After four seasons with the Ravens, the West Allis, Wis., native signed with Detroit in 2017 and played three seasons with the Lions. For the first seven years of his career, Wagner played in 102 games with 87 starts during the regular season, including starting every game he played except for one from 2014-19.

The moves combined will clear $10.25 million in cap space in advance of the start of the new league year in mid-March. Packers fans can expect several more offseason moves in the coming weeks to ensure the team is cap compliant when the free agency period begins on March 17th.

Rob Demovsky reports that Rick Wagner is considering retirement. 

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Comments (64)

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Bearmeat's picture

February 19, 2021 at 03:47 pm

I'm really surprised about Wagner. Not so much with Kirksey. I guess this means that Jenkins will be playing LT and Turner RT? Who's the swing?

Nervous. I hope against hope that Bakh can make it back...

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canadapacker's picture

February 19, 2021 at 07:33 pm

Who is snapping the ball??? - Hanson - my bet that unless we bring a guy in - not likely - or resign Linsley - it will be Jenkins. He may to valuable there - although is there ever a center who is not valuable - just how much do you pay???

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Dzehren's picture

February 19, 2021 at 11:09 pm

Canada- Jenkins is an All Pro guard with OT ability. Jenkins is the emergency center. Lucus Patrick is the center and the Pack will also pick a Center FA as well.

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Coldworld's picture

February 19, 2021 at 11:11 pm

Jenkins might be starting at right tackle, not center.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

February 20, 2021 at 08:29 am

That's my expected starting lineup CW. Jenkins and Turner at tackle, Patrick at center, and Runyon and Stepaniak or a FA or a rookie at guard, unless they resign Linsley, which I'm in favor of.

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Guam's picture

February 20, 2021 at 09:59 am

Not sure I ever envisioned saying this, but picking up Lane Taylor's contract at the same rate as last year (just a little above veteran minimum) might be a good move. Remember, he won the starting job last year over Patrick and the rookies. That would only put one inexperienced guy in the starting line-up (Runyon or Stepaniak) and leave the other as a reserve.

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packer132's picture

February 19, 2021 at 09:00 pm

No surprise here, as its a $4.25 million savings and Wagner was due a $1 million signing bonus today if not cut. Runyan and Patrick at guards and Jenkins and Turner at tackles. Packers should draft a tackle in first 3 rounds plus a cheaper free agent. Beachum, Sambrailo, Peters, could fill in like Wagner did last year and not break the bank.

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Coldworld's picture

February 19, 2021 at 11:13 pm

Sounds like Wagner had indicated he is likely to retire due to the nature of the knee problems he experienced late last year. That makes more sense, because we are highly unlikely to find a better tackle at the price this season.

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Lare's picture

February 19, 2021 at 03:49 pm

Not surprised by the release of Kirksey and Wagner, however I am surprised that Preston Smith wasn't included.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:20 pm

Give it time on Preston Smith

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PeteK's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:28 pm

I believe it's an advantage to release or trade him after 6/1.

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dobber's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:43 pm

I don't know that they'll have that luxury. They've got to make cap on their top 51 on the first league day in March.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 19, 2021 at 05:33 pm

Very true. The Packers don't get the cap relief on the books until June 1 by using a designation. That means it is difficult and perhaps impossible to use that space to sign UFAs in March to replace the holes created by these cuts. OTOH, there might be a sluggish market with lots of veterans still out there.

The June designation is more likely to be used on Lowry. The difference is $3.3M versus $4.8M and $4.8M is a nice amount to use as an operating cushion for the 2021 season.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 19, 2021 at 05:18 pm

Post June 1cut or a trade ?

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packer132's picture

February 19, 2021 at 09:03 pm

I think Packers will try to trade Preston, though hard to tell if any interest. Option #2 is to cut and save $8 million off the cap. Option #3 is to cut by June 1st and save $12 million. The reason Kirksey and Wagner were let go is they were due a roster bonus today of $2.5 million. More cuts will be coming.

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Stroh's picture

February 19, 2021 at 11:32 pm

They should be negotiating w/ P Smith to see if they can reduce his cap number and bring him back on a reduced salary. IIRC Smith is due a bonus 3 days after the new league year. That means they have close to a month to sort this all out. There isn't really a hurry. The moves today were the obvious sort. They have restructures and resignings to continue to work on. Its going to be a gradual process, while they are also working on negotiations. It will sort itself out a little at a time.

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madtowndan's picture

February 20, 2021 at 03:53 pm

If the Pack waits till June 01 to release P Smith, their cap savings from the move are significantly better.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 19, 2021 at 03:51 pm

Just stating the obvious. The packers believe they have players on the roster who can replace the ones released. Or can resign them at vet minimum. Going to be interested in how the Packers shape the roster predraft. Let the bloodletting begin. (UGH!)

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dobber's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:46 pm

Perhaps, but to resign Wagner, it really only makes sense if they can get him resigned at a rate where his new hit AND his existing dead cap are significantly less than what his original 2021 cap hit would have been. I didn't hear anything about the Packers approaching him to take a pay cut, so this might be unlikely.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 19, 2021 at 05:20 pm

Maybe he gets another look after free agency, if he can pass a physical?

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Lphill's picture

February 19, 2021 at 03:53 pm

Kirksey did very good when he finally was playing his position weak side backer , there is no replacement on the roster , this was a mistake.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:19 pm

That all (using my new favorite word) depends on what defensive scheme the Packers will be running. If they keep some variant of Pettine's then they could slide Greene of Scott in beside Barnes. If they decide to run Rams/Titans it will still be three/two DL and three/two ILB. Either way the Packers will be playing a light box. Not much will change.

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dobber's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:48 pm

Agree: my understanding is that the Fangio scheme frequently plays with only 1 ILB. I think the writing was on the wall for Kirksey a long time ago: that $5.6M cap savings would be hard to justify him staying.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 19, 2021 at 05:22 pm

Martin has replaced him.

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Lphill's picture

February 19, 2021 at 03:53 pm

Kirksey did very good when he finally was playing his position weak side backer , there is no replacement on the roster , this was a mistake.

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Coldworld's picture

February 19, 2021 at 06:59 pm

I agree, or would had Pettine stayed. I’m guessing that the usage will be different.

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stockholder's picture

February 19, 2021 at 09:39 pm

Who says there is going to be a weak side LB? I believe they change the scheme. And Greene was in there until he got hurt.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 21, 2021 at 03:32 pm

Hard to pay a guy for missing five games.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:06 pm

I think this speaks to us taking a RT early in this draft.

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Stroh's picture

February 19, 2021 at 11:39 pm

That was very likely even before they released Wagner. OT is a high priority position for the Packers, no to mention a premium position. Getting a OT was already in the cards. They just need to hope that the value matches and a player is available at #29 or at least w/in reasonable range.

CB and DL are the other position that fits the bill at the top of the draft. Unless they can find a way to get JJ Watt signed.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:06 pm

I think this speaks to us taking a RT early in this draft.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:06 pm

I think this speaks to us taking a RT early in this draft.

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PeteK's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:20 pm

Ok I get it , you want a RT. All the mock drafts agree with us.

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Swisch's picture

February 19, 2021 at 05:05 pm

Maybe Leatherhead just had the hiccups. ;-)
In any case, it's really important to get a right tackle instead of a wrong tackle.

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dobber's picture

February 19, 2021 at 07:36 pm

Score on the Dad joke!

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Packers0808's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:19 pm

Wagner more of a surprise than Kirksey it would seem to me! We have place enough OL right now to make up that difference, not so much in LB!

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nostradanus's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:19 pm

Work your magic Russ ball and Gutey go get JJ.
Make it happen. That is all...

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Bure9620's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:28 pm

Neither of these are shocking, the question is do they retain Preston Smith??

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packer132's picture

February 19, 2021 at 09:08 pm

I think Packers will try to trade Preston, though hard to tell if any interest. Option #2 is to cut and save $8 million off the cap. Option #3 is to cut by June 1st and save $12 million. The reason Kirksey and Wagner were let go is they were due a roster bonus today of $2.5 million. More cuts will be coming.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:32 pm

With a better cap situation, this would probaby would not have happened. Both guys are ok players getting ok money. But the cap is not healthy now. So this is what happens.

It is entirely possible that the Packers will take a step backwards in replacing one or both. But the performance hit on the field will be smaller than the cap gains there are getting, IMO. And neither is so good that it is some massive longshot to actually unearth a gem that is as good or better

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Bure9620's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:36 pm

2 year vet contracts are essentially 1 year deals unless they ball out and force a GMs hand to keep them. Their production can be replaced. Wagner was okay, he was beat like a drum against Tampa.

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dobber's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:50 pm

Well-stated on 2-year contracts. Wagner is an ideal 3rd OT, but circumstances won't allow them to pay him what he's costing.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 19, 2021 at 05:36 pm

The cost is $4.25M. Maybe this market will be so depressed that a better RT can be found. Or they move Jenkins to RT and have to find a starting OG. Or to OC and have to find a staring RT and OG. Or ........

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HankScorpio's picture

February 19, 2021 at 06:14 pm

You can find 6th OL for less than $4.25m. Veldeer got paid less. So did Jahri Evans. Evans was a starter.

Wagner is said to be mulling retirement. So the parting of ways might have been mutual.

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Coldworld's picture

February 19, 2021 at 07:03 pm

Veldheer has barely taken a snap since he left us and took very few then. If you are basing a full season quality starter on his salary then you are a massive optimist.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 19, 2021 at 07:43 pm

Just for the record, you did not read my mind correctly. The words "6th OL" should have clued you in that I was not talking about full season quality starter.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 19, 2021 at 09:21 pm

IIRC, they signed Jahri Evans for $2.4M. He played 14 games (912 snaps) pretty competently for GB in 2017. The salary cap limit was $177.2M in 2017.

Agree that it would be easier to find a half-decent OG for less than $4.25M than a RT. I just preferred Jenkins at OG or OC than at RT. Well, Gute will probably see who is out there in UFA land at OC, OG and OT, then depending on who if anyone is signed see what's available in the draft. Probably will draft an OL fairly high depending on the position not filled in free agency.

I certainly hope Gute isn't planning on Turner, Runyan, Patrick, Stepaniak/Rookie and Jenkins as the OL. Heck, GB would still need depth.

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Coldworld's picture

February 19, 2021 at 11:22 pm

It sounds increasingly likely that this was the result of his knee as opposed to a cap driven move. Hopefully we can find a good enough substitute RT of similar quality at a similar price, as we now have no depth for injuries. Wagner was really good value. Sadly it looks like his body called time. He had a good year playing for his home state team at least.

This probably makes the net cap situation worse in the end or the RT position a lot thinner.

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HankScorpio's picture

February 20, 2021 at 03:01 am

I get that Bahk blew out his knee but medical science is to the point that is not something that precludes him from being mentioned anymore. Including the guy that is arguably the best LT in the game does tend to change the picture. Sure he might not be full go from game 1 but Wagner showed you can survive early with less than great play. He also showed you cannot survive late.

Even so, I definitely agree that a day 1-2 pick on a OT is solidly on the radar. Maybe that guy would be the bridge to Bahk being full go. Maybe someone else. But depth is definitely a concern when you pull Linsley and Wagner out of the OL picture we saw in 2020. If the way those football gods smiled down this year showed anything, it was that winning in the trenches is the most sure path to victory. That is how TB survived 3 Brady interceptions in GB. People are losing their minds to praise him. The fact is that he did all he could to hand the win to GB. But the guys up front showed once again that W/L is not a QB stat.

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packer132's picture

February 19, 2021 at 09:13 pm

Agreed: Both players were ok and would probably not have been cut unless the huge cap deficit. I am good with the roster, hoping to replace with draft pick(s) and cheaper free agent pickups.

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 19, 2021 at 04:51 pm

Perhaps the FO saw my value comment, in another article here about Wagner, and came to the same conclusion. His value was an expendable one. Now, when the FO gets the cap salary to where it can obtain, though unlikely to get the big FAs, maybe they find a few dollars to bring back the expendable types, by choice or no choice.

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Coldworld's picture

February 19, 2021 at 07:04 pm

Sounds like his injury issues may be more significant even than your inestimable wisdom in this instance.

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 19, 2021 at 07:28 pm

Why did so many deny what was clearly visible as to Wagner's place on the team, especially given the cap issues? I called it like I saw it. He was expendable, and the FO made what I saw a fact. Others agreed, I'm sure. I made a list of questions to answer, and the result, if answered honestly, came true a couple of days later.

Let's praise this messenger. I deserve it.

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Coldworld's picture

February 19, 2021 at 11:24 pm

You called it as you saw it and were wrong. The fact that the result is the same doesn’t save your logic or your hubris.

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Swisch's picture

February 19, 2021 at 09:39 pm

This is kind of rough on the players, but at least they can take consolation in knowing it may have been a salary cap thing, and that they can likely find jobs for next season.
Our offensive line is intriguing. If Linsley leaves, and Bakh misses lots of next season before he can return from injury, it seems we really have only one stellar lineman in Jenkins for much of next season.
However, it seems there are a good number of experienced guys who are solid, or inexperienced guys with promise.
I wonder if the Packers see any of them as keepers for the long term -- above average or even stars -- and what the fans here at CHTV think as well.
It seems many of us are hoping the Packers are going to draft an offensive tackle in the first three rounds who can contribute significantly right away -- but there are still a lot of spots to fill next September as blockers to keep our offense at an elite level.
Which players do fans see as starters from tackle to tackle, and which ones as the first subs in? Do we already have any potential stars in the making on the offensive line? Who would you add through the draft?

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Coldworld's picture

February 19, 2021 at 07:08 pm

Turner, Runyon, Patrick, Stepaniak and Jenkins. Nijman and Hansen backing up at T and C ... after that maybe a PS holdover and draft at least one G and T or bring back Taylor on a similar contract to last year’s—my preference now.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 21, 2021 at 03:39 pm

They will draft two more for the O line and hope one sticks.

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Dzehren's picture

February 19, 2021 at 11:06 pm

GB management knew these were 1 year deals. No surprise. Pack will no doubt draft an OT & ILB in the 2021 draft to supplement the roster.

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mnbadger's picture

February 20, 2021 at 10:06 am

While I totally agree with your thinking about the draft, I don’t think we as fans can approach the draft with “no doubt” about anything after last years draft. I’m praying for no shocking surprises out of mr Gute. GPG

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stockholder's picture

February 19, 2021 at 11:14 pm

No surprises here. You don't pay a back -up RT 6 mil. Kirksey got beat out by a Non drafted FA. Funchess should be next. Followed by Lowrey.

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html5's picture

February 20, 2021 at 12:39 am

Your article is great, thank you for sharing them!

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Fabio's picture

February 20, 2021 at 01:52 am

The most important decision that will make us understand a lot of the future is whether they will restructure Rodgers' contract .... there (in addition to Smith's release in June) is where everything is decided.

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Since'61's picture

February 20, 2021 at 09:44 am

I think it could be possible that these cuts and others to come could be used to re-sign Linsley. Of course the Packers could be outbid during the FA process. If nothing else this is a clear sign that the Packers are willing to go with their younger players on the OL and at ILB.

It could also mean that rather than retaining Wagner they are considering to bring back Veldheer for depth at OT. If Veldheer wants to play I think he is a better option than Wagner.

Looks like it will be an interesting off-season and we’re starting early. Thanks, Since ‘61

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MarkinMadison's picture

February 20, 2021 at 10:54 am

At this point the Packers have to find a way to get under the cap without losing any more core players for the future. It's as simple as that, and I don't read much more into it. Waay too early to project Jenkins to LT.

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