Mason Thompson | March 17th, 2020
On a day that saw DeAndre Hopkins traded for the same price as Hayden Hurst, the Packers were winners early in the morning. Green Bay signed recently cut linebacker, Christian Kirksey from the Browns, as well as signing tackle, Ricky Wagner from Detroit one day after he was cut.
I will take a look at the contracts and how they fit in with the team as well as how it affects the draft strategy for the Packers.
Christian Kirksey, LB – 2 Years, $13,000,000
When the Browns first released Kirksey, I thought Green Bay would give him a visit. Not only did he have a visit, he now has signed with the Packers. With Blake Martinez wanting anywhere between 10-12 million a year, the Packers were obviously going to let him walk. The deal has only four million in guarantees, with a base salary of $1,750,000 this year and $3,000,000 in 2021. Most of the deal is in incentives($3,750,000), including a $1,750,000 pro bowl incentive in 2021. He counts $4,500,000 against the cap this year and $8,000,000 in 2021. The contract is practically a one-year deal with a team-option in 2021. Kirksey has a $1,500,000 roster bonus due in 2021, but the Packers would save six of the eight million This is a good deal for the Packers as Kirksey has only played nine games combined in the last two years.
The Packers desperately needed help at the position with Martinez wanting far more than he is worth and Oren Burks not living up to his potential and being injury prone. Kirksey is as solid of a tackler as Martinez but a superior coverage linebacker. The Packers are saving anywhere between 5.5 to 7.5 million in cap room by signing Kirksey compared to Martinez and they are getting the better player.
Not only is Green Bay receiving the superior player, but they will also be awarded a compensatory pick from Martinez. Kirksey was cut by the Browns, so he doesn’t count against the compensatory pick formula. If I had to guess, the Packers will receive a fourth or fifth-round pick in return for Martinez, if anyone gives him the ridiculous amount he wants.
Ricky Wagner, RT – 2 Years, $11,000,000
The Lions opted to save $9,000,000 once they cut Wagner on Sunday. He had a down year last year but has been solid otherwise throughout his career. Wagner is set to earn $4,812,500 this year while Bryan Bulaga is warranting about $15,000,000 on the open market. Along with Kirksey, Wagner’s contract is filled with incentives and not much in guarantees, as well as a team-option in 2021. His contract goes up to $6,000,000 against the cap in 2021.
Wagner is locked in as the starting right tackle at this time with Bulaga all but out of the building. The Packers saved $10,000,000 in comparison to what Bulaga is expected to get on the open market. Along with Kirksey, signing Wagner doesn’t count against the compensatory pick formula. The Packers will likely receive a third-round compensatory pick from Bulaga in 2021.
Instead of spending around $25,000,000 on Martinez and Bulaga, Green Bay opted to spend less than $10,000,000 between Kirksey and Wagner this year. Instead of building their contracts with guarantees, Brian Gutekunst overloaded the contract with incentives for playing time and roster bonuses. Both contracts look like one-year deals with a team option for the second year. If the Packers decide to release both next March, they will save $10,250,000 out of the $14,000,000. The two both have starting experience and fill roles in positions the Packers desperately need. Green Bay opted for low-risk deals and now have the opportunity to go best player available if they choose in the draft.
A Look Ahead
The receiver class didn’t get touched on Monday, likely because of the rookie class this year. The Packers can still make a move for a top receiver, or they can wait until next month to address that need.
Green Bay can still add Patrick Queen in the first round if they choose and use Kirksey as a teacher for the first year. The same goes for Wagner, with any tackle the Packers choose to select, whether it be Austin Jackson, Josh Jones, Prince Tega Wanogho, Matt Peart, or whomever they choose.
The Packers have ten picks in next month’s draft and now have the flexibility to move up the board and grab someone they fall in love with. Players like Patrick Queen, Kenneth Murray, and Josh Jones are still a possibility at pick 30 with these bandaids this year. The Packers made small moves but ended up as winners. Gutekunst has shown he knows what he’s doing and won’t overspend in free agency or trade away perennial superstars on the team, unlike Bill O’Brien.
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