Brian Gutekunst Maintains (With Slight Tweaks) His Aggressive Approach to Free Agency for 2020

It's been another fast start to free agency for Packers GM Brian Gutekunst.

 

We're barely into 2020 free agency, and already Packers GM Brian Gutekunst is making moves, bringing in former Browns ILB Christian Kirksey on a two-year, $18 million deal with just over $4 million guaranteed, and former Lions RT Ricky Wagner (a former Badger) to another low-risk two-year deal.

Russ Ball made some smart moves with these contracts. If either Kirksey or Wagner flame out, they can easily be released after one year, as the structure of the contracts essentially makes them one-year deals with a second-year option due to low guaranteed money. Low risk pickups at positions of need. While Kirksey and Wagner are probably downgrades from Blake Martinez and Bryan Bulaga, the value at which they come will open up a lot of other avenues for the Packers to improve their team.

So once again, Brian Gutekunst has an active opening to free agency. He's been aggressive to start things off, but in a different way than he was in 2019, when he made huge splash moves right off the bat by bringing in the Smith brothers, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner. Rather than going after big-name targets, he's quickly identifying and signing players at good value to fill out areas of need on the roster. 

Like with the 2019 signings, these first couple free agency signings of the offseason give the Packers some options with what they can do for the rest of free agency and the draft. Nothing's stopping them from going after another ILB in free agency if they want, but at the very least they have a guy they clearly like who can slide in and start and give them the option to spend their money and draft capital elsewhere. 

It will be interesting to see how the rest of free agency pans out. There have been numerous reports linking the Packers to Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, but he just received a massive contract elsewhere (probably for the better; too rich for my blood). Perhaps that leaves Gutekunst with some money to make one "splash" signing before the draft. But at the very least, Gutekunst once again demonstrates he, unlike his predecessor, is not afraid to go out and find guys he likes to fill out his roster and give himself more options in the draft.

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Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Comments (87)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 12:08 pm

Looks like Kirksey has a year one cap of $4.15M
Wagner looks to have a year one cap of $5.25M.

Based on media reports. Wagner's base reporting is iffy.

Total is $9.4M spent. GB probably had $16M spendable. $6.6M in a first year cap hit should be available. wonder if Gute makes a move to open up more space.

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Guam's picture

March 16, 2020 at 12:19 pm

That should be enough room to sign a mid-range IDL and maybe even resign Lewis.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 12:37 pm

I'd like Ervin re-signed as well. Could GB be done with free agency before players can sign?

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fordguy's picture

March 16, 2020 at 01:30 pm

THEGREATREYNOLDO Do you think Gute is signing these street guys for not only value, but for the comp. picks next year? Your going to have both Linsley and Bakhtiari contracts up next year besides other ones. Do you think he's trying load up on comp. picks to get replacements or are we ok on the cap next year?

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Stroh's picture

March 16, 2020 at 03:20 pm

The Kirksey and Wagner signings certainly allow the Packers to get a couple comp picks next year for Bulaga and Martinez. Bahktiari will almost certainly get another contract, but they'll probably draft Linsley's replacement this draft w/ a 4th or 5th rd pick. The signings are good moves for stopgap players at positions that needed attention, while giving them time to develop draft picks at ILB and RT. But they will get a couple, possibly fairly high comp picks for Bulaga and Martinez and possibly in '21 for Linsley. At least as things stand now, w/o further signings that might affect comp pick calculations.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 03:44 pm

If Ruiz popped up in front of Gutey, they could deal Lindsley this year and gain CAP. Lot of scenarios in play.

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Stroh's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:54 pm

You could say the same about Biadasz. He was All Big 10 in front of Ruiz I believe. Again Center makes all the OL calls and I'm not really sure you want to entrust that to a rookie.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:22 pm

Lindsley was a 5th and he started as a rookie. Just get Players.

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Stroh's picture

March 16, 2020 at 08:27 pm

Yeah it can happen, as did for Bulaga. But that is far from a given and a big risk. We as fans don't know the amount to which the offense was watered down in order to start a rookie at C or ILB, where calls are made. How much did they have to dummy down to make it work and how did it effect the play on that side of the ball? Neither of us has any of those answers and its a crap shoot at best.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 17, 2020 at 08:14 pm

Bulaga never seemed stressed as a rookie and I will give you Lindsley had two good guys next to him. Still comes down to getting football palyers. A guy that was a TE and some decided was a LT like Spriggs make s one wonder about the personnel dept. Just do not reach.

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fordguy's picture

March 16, 2020 at 04:45 pm

That's what I was wondering with Bakh, Linsley, Jones, King and Clarke's contract has to figure in at some point. Is Gute looking at draft capital for the future? Bakh's next
contract you'd have to guess would be 16- 20 mil. then Clarke and if King's re-singed that could be over 50 mil. Makes a guy wonder if we'll sign anyone else so we don't lose comp. picks?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 10:50 pm

I answered this question in an article I published this morning: "NFL sets Cap at 198.2M. Packers sign Kirksey" . Published this morning about 9:00 am but it is already off the regular page on the right. Lot's going on.

I don't know about the compensatory pick aspect. I suspect it is a factor. Rumor in the media is that the cap is going to explode in 2021. Some media folks mentioned a $35M increase.

If the media is wrong (which wouldn't be a first), the cap looks below average for 2021. At present, GB has $162M in liabilities, which is on the high end. The problem is though that Bakh, Clark, Aaron Jones, Linsley, and Jamaal Williams aren't included and only 30 players are under contract for 2021. So at least 20 more guys means $12M more. GB needs the cap to explode.

Need to hit on some draft picks.

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TheKanataThrilla's picture

March 16, 2020 at 01:02 pm

Pierce and Lewis would be nice additions to the guys we already signed.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:40 pm

They could go younger at TE and take a guy like Sullivan in the draft as the Inline guy.

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stockholder's picture

March 16, 2020 at 07:44 pm

Pettine had more to do with this then you think.

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fordguy's picture

March 16, 2020 at 07:49 pm

JIMMY GRAHAM SIGNS WITH THE BEARS AND THEY STILL SUCK.

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Dzehren's picture

March 16, 2020 at 12:28 pm

Lane Taylor would Give GB about 4.8M in cap space.

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dobber's picture

March 16, 2020 at 12:57 pm

That could be Lewis, Ervin, and a little more room for other moves.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 17, 2020 at 08:15 pm

D lineman.

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Lphill's picture

March 16, 2020 at 12:44 pm

Forget tight end get Kwitnikowski and a big body , then let the draft take care of the rest.

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dobber's picture

March 16, 2020 at 01:10 pm

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Wyorolo27's picture

March 16, 2020 at 01:00 pm

Haha could always be worst! Look what the Texans just did!

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KneelYoung's picture

March 16, 2020 at 01:02 pm

They need Michael Pierce DL of the Ravens to plug up the middle. I would hold onto Lane Taylor at this point and see how things look in training camp.

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dobber's picture

March 16, 2020 at 01:09 pm

Certainly there's no need to release Taylor until they actually need the cap space...but if they have no intention of keeping him, it's doing him a favor to let him go now. They'll almost certainly draft at least one if not two OL. Maybe they can swing a deal for a situational late-round pick, but I don't think he's on the roster past the draft.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 16, 2020 at 02:29 pm

He’s our #6 lineman. An injury to about any player on the offensive line puts him on the field. I think he’s good insurance, personally.

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Stroh's picture

March 16, 2020 at 03:25 pm

He's an OG only. Yeah I know he started in am emergency at OT, but there is no way Taylor will be a backup at OT. He has very limited value IMO and will probably be released when they need cap room. They already signed Patrick to be the backup interior OL, either at OG or C. Taylor has no future in GB.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 03:53 pm

The OT from rds one or two is either the starter at RT or the # 6 guy. Wagner is the fill-in at RT and Guard. Taylor cannot move well enough for the outside zone game.

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Stroh's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:13 pm

I agree, but I don't think Wagner moves any better than Taylor. Wagner is just a stopgap, at OT, I don't see them moving him inside when they already have Patrick as the backup OG/C.

Its foolish at best to count on a rookie to start. At ILB they generally make the calls and at RT your protecting Rodgers. Its not about #6 OL its about a backup OT and a backup OG/C. If a OG gets injured they are going to use Patrick before they would use a rookie OT.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:26 pm

If their guy is a high pick or a natural, he will start as a rookie. Clifton and Tauscher, Bhaktiari and Linsley, Jenkins have all proved it. Talent over projects.

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Stroh's picture

March 16, 2020 at 08:32 pm

You keep making an assumption that any rookie is capable of starting. You know what they say about assuming? Its foolish at best to expect a rookie to start, unless your talking a top 10 draft pick and even then it can be.

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greengold's picture

March 17, 2020 at 01:57 am

Elgton Jenkins.

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dobber's picture

March 17, 2020 at 05:35 am

But he was drafted into a situation where he was behind Turner and Taylor. He wasn't drafted to play immediately.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 17, 2020 at 08:19 pm

They knew what they were doing with Jenkins. They let Taylor take the heat int the away game , 100 year opener , against the Bears and contre the Vikes , but Taylor was leaking pressure. Jenkins was a steal.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 18, 2020 at 02:52 am

BS. Jenkins would have started if the Packers thought he was ready. Taylor beat him out. Playing with a ripped up shoulder. A player who should have been on the IR beat out the rookie who was given every chance to take the position. The Jenkins who finished the season, was a completely different player than the rookie who came in for an injured vet. That's to his credit. But do not underrate Taylor, who has been a very good starter for this team and is accountable. Otherwise, the Packers would have cut him. As we have seen with Bulaga, Gute is not afraid to make changes with the long term in mind. Outside Bahk, every member of the starting OL is expendable because of the Cap...

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Leatherhead's picture

March 16, 2020 at 04:23 pm

Yes, he’s an OG, but you can move Jenkins to center or Turner to tackle. He gives us a lot of flexibility and we usually only have 7 active on game day.

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PatrickGB's picture

March 16, 2020 at 04:37 pm

Turner at tackle would be a disaster. Just ask the Broncos. He is barely good enough as a guard. But he is a big guy who might fill in for part of a game if it’s an emergency. I think he gets replaced through the draft.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:42 pm

Turner played better as a LG for Denver.

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Stroh's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:24 pm

In GB Turner was the obvious choice for a DC to attack. They had 4 quality starters at the other positions, so Turner got attacked more often then he probably did in Denver. Its not like Denver's OL was even in the same class as the Packers. Turner provided exactly what they wanted, just like w/ Amos. They may have slightly overpaid but they got a starter who was available week in and week out and he stabilized a position that was a Sieve the previous year.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 10:55 pm

The new CBA allows 48 to be active, but one has to be an offensive lineman. In other words, if a team makes 8 offensive linemen active, then they can have 48 players active on game day, up from 46. If only 7 OL are active, the team can only have 46 active on game day.

I assume the way this shakes out is that every team will always have 8 offensive linemen active.

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greengold's picture

March 17, 2020 at 07:01 am

Jenkins was drafted as OG/C and has a lot of C experience.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 17, 2020 at 08:22 pm

Patrick has the backup center job.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 17, 2020 at 08:24 pm

deleted

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PeteK's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:34 pm

We could have cut Taylor and signed Hooper for the same deal Browns gave him. I think he would prefer to play for Pack.

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WestWi_Packfan's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:30 pm

Unless there is an injury early on I doubt they pay Lane Taylor a starters wage to sit on the bench because he will not beat out Jenkins or Turner. He will be released at some point IMO.

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Lphill's picture

March 16, 2020 at 02:02 pm

Wasted money on these two players that could have gone towards better talent.

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stockholder's picture

March 16, 2020 at 02:05 pm

Austin Hooper Te to the Browns.

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PeteK's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:27 pm

44 for 4- 23 guaranteed, doesn't break the bank. I thought he was perfect for this offense.

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PatrickGB's picture

March 16, 2020 at 02:31 pm

So we sign one Christian and one Lion. That’s entertaining.

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mbpacker's picture

March 16, 2020 at 04:34 pm

Think if we drafted someone named Ben Hur!

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greengold's picture

March 17, 2020 at 01:58 am

For. The. Win.

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wildbill's picture

March 16, 2020 at 02:48 pm

Sorry to see two warriors like Martinez and Bulaga leave but their cost would have been to much. A downgrade at OT but , if healthy, an upgrade at ILB. Solid moves with the ability to get out after a year. I wish we would sign Pierce and bring back Lewis and am happy it looks like we are not gonna get Littleton or Hooper as both costs were too much for their value.

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sonomaca's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:59 pm

Getting a bit worried about the right side of the OL. Seems to me they’re still focused primarily on the defense.

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Lphill's picture

March 16, 2020 at 03:43 pm

Wasted money, unless Gute gets Shobert too .

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Rusty001's picture

March 16, 2020 at 04:37 pm

Go after Littleton! Why not spend more money on a star than spend little money on a player who only played 9 games the last 2 yrs!

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:44 pm

That ship has sailed.

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WestWi_Packfan's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:35 pm

Cant afford Littleton that's why

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MikeS's picture

March 16, 2020 at 04:13 pm

Looks like WR, OT, ILB, and TE in the draft not necessarily in that order. BPA from that mix.

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dobber's picture

March 16, 2020 at 04:26 pm

I think they've already opened up plenty of opportunities in the draft just with these two signings. BG can let the board fall to him rather than being forced to reach to fill a hole, and if the clear BPA isn't a WR or an OT, he can make that pick.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:46 pm

Who was the guy that pushed for Spriggs?

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Stroh's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:18 pm

For all we know it was Gutey. He seems to be the guy who puts more of an emphasis on athleticism, physical testing and Spark/RAS scores than Thompson did.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:28 pm

That's what I heard through the grapevine. Hendrickson was mentored by the Oz, so his eye for O line talent should bring in another solid player.

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lowcsp's picture

March 16, 2020 at 04:41 pm

If a quarterback falls would knot be surprised to see green bay take one

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ShawnO's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:01 pm

The Browns spent more on a "backup" QB than GB spent on a starting Right Tackle. Take that how ever you may.

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:15 pm

If the Packers had $65M in cap space like the Browns, then this comparison might make sense.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 17, 2020 at 08:29 pm

I am a fan of Case Keenum. If the flake falters in leadership, Case will take control of that looney bin. He is familiar with Kevin Stefanski.

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ShawnO's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:01 pm

The Browns spent more on a "backup" QB than GB spent on a starting Right Tackle. Take that how ever you may.

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ShawnO's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:01 pm

The Browns spent more on a "backup" QB than GB spent on a starting Right Tackle. Take that how ever you may.

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Cheesey51's picture

March 17, 2020 at 07:16 am

When you have a QB on the rookie deal,one has a lot of house $$$ to spend

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Cheesey51's picture

March 17, 2020 at 07:18 am

When you have a QB on the rookie deal,one has a lot of house $$$ to spend

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Hematite's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:08 pm

Nice to see that we are downgrading through free agency.
Shrewd move.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 11:01 pm

That's funny. Despite the downvotes, it isn't untrue.

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Thegravedigger's picture

March 17, 2020 at 12:01 am

Just hope we at least get michael pierce. Other wise dude is right. We did downgrade so far. Still. Thumbs down.

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:18 pm

About what I expected. I would have put a little more on the RT if there was someone better available, but I think they got the ILB pick and spend right. Any way you slice it, they addressed the two biggest needs right off the bat and with a limited budget. Now they are pretty free to take the BPA that falls to them in the draft. Same pattern as last year.

I really don't get the *[email protected]&ing here. It's all about the cap. You can wish for whatever you want, but everything has a price tag. Littleton was never going to happen. Bulaga was never going to happen. Wake up and smell the ground beans folks.

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dobber's picture

March 16, 2020 at 05:27 pm

^^THIS^^

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mbpacker's picture

March 16, 2020 at 07:04 pm

Is that 100% Arabica beans?

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HankScorpio's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:38 pm

Both of them are "street" free agents that won't count against the 2021 comp pick formula.

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PeteK's picture

March 16, 2020 at 06:59 pm

If we sign DT Reader and Cobb ,on a one year contract , I would be very satisfied going into the draft.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 17, 2020 at 08:32 pm

So long ,been good to know them...

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Lphill's picture

March 16, 2020 at 07:04 pm

Awful signings neither will contribute in the upcoming season. Desperation moves , nothing more . Going backwards.

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stockholder's picture

March 16, 2020 at 07:56 pm

Pettine had more to do with Kirksey then we know. He had him in Cleveland. Wagner was a Cap cut. So I doubt this was desperation. I see them as a bargain and Insurance.

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dobber's picture

March 16, 2020 at 09:28 pm

Remember that Milt Hendrickson was in Baltimore with Wagner, too, so I suspect he's got something to do with that signing.

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stockholder's picture

March 16, 2020 at 07:47 pm

Jimmy Graham signs with BEARS. 2 yrs. $16$

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egbertsouse's picture

March 16, 2020 at 07:47 pm

$16 mil. $9 guaranteed. Da Bares got hosed.

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egbertsouse's picture

March 16, 2020 at 07:48 pm

$9 mil guaranteed. Sorry.

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 16, 2020 at 08:22 pm

LOL. Damn, did they hold a garage sale to find that money? First HaHa. Now Graham. Are they trying to follow the old Viking path to failure: get all the ex-Packers you can?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 16, 2020 at 11:23 pm

From Windycitygridiron - fan comment:

Guys don’t freak out.
He may be bad and old but at least he’s expensive.

Posted by SlowPace on Mar 16, 2020 | 6:58 PM reply rec (75)

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JamesLofton's picture

March 17, 2020 at 07:07 am

What a great day....
The Pack gets 2 reasonably priced FAs for depth.
Cousins gets extended, the Bears sign Jimmy Graham, Diggs is out of Minnesota and Blake gets paid $$.

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