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Packers release Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner, freeing up almost $10M in cap space

Two 2020 offseason pickups are back on the outs.

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have released linebacker Christian Kirksey and offensive lineman Rick Wagner as part of their ongoing effort to address salary cap issues. The moves clear just under $10 million in cap space for 2021 — about $5.6 million for Kirksey and $4.25 million for Wagner — leaving the team about $11.5 million over a potential $180 million cap.

Both Kirksey and Wagner came aboard as free agent signings last year, and both played fairly significant roles in the 2020 season.

Kirksey started 11 games for the Packers last season, playing 548 snaps on defense. His 77 tackles ranked third on the team and he added two sacks, two interceptions, and four passes defensed.

Injuries, however, were again a concern for Kirksey. He played just nine games in the two seasons prior to joining the Packers and battled a variety of issues throughout the 2020 season. He became expendable with the season-long emergence of Krys Barnes as a viable (if limited) starter, and Kamal Martin’s long-term potential probably hastened his exit.

Wagner, meanwhile, played generally well, if a bit more than expected. Tapped as a potential replacement for Bryan Bulaga, Wagner shored up the right side of the line fairly well in his 610 snaps, but his ill-fated stint in relief of David Bakhtiari in the Packers’ Week 6 loss to the Buccaneers proved to be a bad omen. Wagner was completely outclassed at right tackle in the Packers’ NFC Championship loss to that same Buccaneers’ team, and his lack of athleticism was apparent.

Though the moves do bring some salary-cap relief, the Packers are now in the market (or perhaps, again in the market or even still in the market) for help at inside linebacker and tackle. With David Bakhtiari’s availability for the start of the 2021 season anything but certain, the need for reliable help at tackle looms very large.