We knew the Green Bay Packers would need to find more ways to create cap space.
On Friday, they announced the release of tackle Rick Wagner and inside linebacker Christian Kirksey, two players they brought in last season.
The decision to release Wagner is somewhat surprising given how well he played in 2020.
With David Bakhtiari on the sideline for potentially the start of the new season due to a torn ACL, the Packers are going to need good depth at tackle.
Billy Turner had an excellent season as a starter at tackle, and Wagner also played his part when filling in for injury.
Wagner actually started nine games for the Packers in 2020. Bakhtiari missed time not just late in the season, but also a couple of games earlier on. But even when Wagner was in, the offensive line continued to play at a high level.
Wagner ranked eighth among all tackles in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric this season. Incredibly, all three of Turner, Bakhtiari, and Wagner were part of the top 10. According to Pro Football Focus, Wagner allowed just one sack.
Where Wagner did struggle was in the NFC Championship Game. He was regularly beaten one-on-one as Aaron Rodgers found himself under pressure all game long. But in Wagner’s defense, he was one of many offensive tackles to struggle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ pass rush in the playoffs. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs.
The two moves made by the Packers were financial. The team saved around $10 million in cap space by moving on from two players who will likely be backups in 2021.
So from that point of view, it makes sense. The Packers had to do something.
But is it somewhat surprising given the team’s current lack of depth at tackle that they’ve moved on from Wagner? Absolutely.