LB & RT Remain Draft Needs After Kirksey & Wagner Signings

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick by the Green Bay Packers during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 26: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick by the Green Bay Packers during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT /

Even with the additions of Christian Kirksey at Rick Wagner at key positions, the Green Bay Packers should still plan on addressing those two positions early in the draft.

Although at this point in the offseason we have already seen many mock drafts released, once the initial wave of free agency acquisitions winds down, for some teams the mock drafts moving forward are going to look quite a bit different.

As we all know, free agency and the draft go hand in hand. If a team has a huge need and addresses it in free agency with a high-profile signing, well then the odds of them drafting that same position early on certainly goes down.

And when it comes to the Green Bay Packers, most would agree that linebacker, tackle, wide receiver, and interior defensive lineman are the four biggest holes that they have to fill this offseason.

Well, with the NFL’s legal tampering period now open, Green Bay was able to address two of those positions already with the reported signings of linebacker Christian Kirksey and tackle Rick Wagner.

However, while both of these signings could prove to be excellent values, their presence on the team shouldn’t change how the Green Bay Packers choose to approach the draft.

Look at any recent three-round mock draft and there’s a very good possibility that the draft analyst has Green Bay selecting a linebacker and a tackle at some point. And for good reasons might I add. With the departure of Blake Martinez, despite his limitations, it left a huge hole in the middle of this defense and for a few weeks now, most have been expecting that Bryan Bulaga would sign elsewhere. Once again, leaving another hole to fill.

But even with Kirksey and Wagner, drafting both a tackle and a linebacker early on should absolutely still be on GM Brian Gutekunst’s radar.

Sure, they’ve gained some flexibility with the Kirksey and Wagner signings as they provide stability, but both of these players could very well just be short-term fixes. Both contracts are only for two seasons and there’s no guarantee that either player is even going to produce in 2020.

Kirksey is coming off two injury-riddled seasons in 2018 and 2019 where he only played in nine total games during that span. And while he is a great leader and reliable tackler, he has his limitations in coverage.

Then there is Wagner who also missed some time last season, appearing in 12 games, but he really struggled when he was on the field. The hope is that he can bounce back and return to his form from past seasons, yet that remains to be seen.

The good news for the Packers is that these are two high upside, low-risk contracts. If one or both of these players puts together a productive 2020 season, then these are great value signings. However, if things go south and Green Bay needs a way out after this year, they are able to do so.

According to Spotrac, the Packers can cut Kirksey after 2020 and they suffer a dead cap hit of just $2 million. Meanwhile, if Wagner is cut after this upcoming season, his dead cap hit is only $1.75 million.

Now having said all of that, with the unknowns surrounding both of these players as well as their short-term deals, as it currently stands, if Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray are available the Packers shouldn’t hesitate to take either one of them. And they are also still going to need their tackle of the future. So drafting one in the first few rounds remains a must as well.

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While overall I think these are two cost-effective and solid additions, it doesn’t change how Green Bay should approach this year’s draft.