GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers released a pair of veteran starters, offensive tackle Rick Wagner and linebacker Christian Kirksey, on Friday as they continued to shed salary-cap burdens.
Even if the Packers weren’t over the projected cap, both players would have been strong candidates for release considering their uneven performances last season. Wagner also informed the team that he is strongly considering retirement, sources said.
The moves created $10.25 million in salary-cap space for a team that was about $23 million over the projected cap for 2020, which will be no lower than $180 million plus the $3.7 million in unused cap space they carried over from last season.
Kirskey was due to count $6 million against this year’s cap and Wagner $4.25 million. Both were entering the final seasons of their contracts. The net savings will be around $9 million because the Packers will have to count two other players — likely minimum-salary contracts ($660,000 each) — when their top-51 contracts must count for cap purposes beginning on March 17.
Last week, they created an additional $8.304 million of salary-cap space when they converted left tackle David Bakhtiari’s $11.072 million roster bonus into a signing bonus, which allowed them to prorate it over four years for cap purposes.
Wagner played in every game this past season, making 11 starts (including playoffs) and playing 63.8 percent of the Packers’ offensive snaps. Wagner, a Wisconsin native, played four seasons for the Ravens (2013-16) and three for the Lions (2017-19) before he signed with the Packers last year.
Wagner started both playoff games at right tackle, while Billy Turner moved over to left tackle after Bakhtiari tore his ACL the week of the regular-season finale.
Given that Bakhtiari is not expected to be ready for the season opener, the Packers will likely be on the lookout for help at the position. A year ago, they let veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga leave in free agency to sign with the Chargers. Kirksey missed five games because of a pectoral injury after playing in just nine games over his final two seasons in Cleveland.
He was signed in part because of his familiarity with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme from their time together with the Browns. The Packers let Pettine go after the season and hired Joe Barry to coordinate their defense.
Rookies Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin saw increased roles on defense in place of Kirksey as the season progressed.