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Packers release OL Rick Wagner, LB Christian Kirksey after one season with team

The Packers are moving on from two veterans who helped them return to the NFC Championship Game.

Green Bay released tackle Rick Wagner and linebacker Christian Kirksey on Friday, the team announced, in what amounts to salary shedding moves as teams across the NFL trim their payrolls to fit under the tight cap expected for 2021.

Both Wagner and Kirksey arrived to Green Bay as free-agent additions in 2020, with Wagner making the Packers the third team of his career, and Kirksey leaving the Cleveland Browns for a shot at the postseason with Green Bay. Wagner appeared in 16 regular season games, starting nine of them and serving as a swing tackle.

Kirksey, meanwhile, finally realized his playoff ambitions, appearing in two postseason games for Green Bay in the 2020 season. He started in all 11 of the regular-season games in which he appeared, recording 77 tackles (two for loss), 2.0 sacks, four passes defensed and two interceptions.

Kirksey and Wagner were essentially mercenaries, with each signing two-year deals with clear exit options after 2020. Green Bay will save nearly $10 million in space by releasing the two, while carrying a dead cap of $3.75 million.

The future for each is interesting. At 31 years old, Wagner was relegated to a role that was less than full time, but he did end up starting in more than half of Green Bay's regular-season games, lending some credence to the thought he might be able to help a team in need.

Kirksey is still just 28, and though he's struggled with injuries in recent years, his 11 games played in 2020 were encouraging. His former team is in need of linebacking talent, and after getting cut, a reunion there is possible.

We'll learn more about their immediate future in the weeks ahead. For now, though, they're closing their brief chapter as Packers.

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