On Friday, the Green Bay Packers released linebackers Christian Kirksey and right tackle Rick Wagner. Green Bay signed both players less than a year ago last offseason, and now they’re back on the open market.
Per Zach Kruse of The Packers Wire, Kirksey was released with a failed physical, but Wagner was let go primarily due to salary cap purposes. The Packers are still $11 million over the new cap floor of $180MM.
As soon as the Wagner news hit the wire, The Cincinnati Bengals should’ve became interested. They have an obvious need at right tackle and Wagner proved he was still a competent player at 31 years of age last season. But there are some risks with Wagner at this point in his career.
The Packers saw Wagner return to form as a quality right tackle early in their season-long run to the NFC Championship, but Wagner’s knees would end up giving him trouble. He missed Weeks 10 and 11 due to a knee injury after playing through it in Week 9. Upon his return to the field, Wagner initially didn’t play like himself. Pro Football Focus graded him below 62 in his first two starts back from injury. Wagner eventually rebounded, but with well over 6,000 snaps on his mileage, a permanent drop off for Wagner will come sooner than later.
Upon his release from the Packers, reports surfaced that Wagner is contemplating retirement, so that adds another variable to the equation.
Wagner, originally a fifth-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens back in 2013, played his first four years in Baltimore, which included five starts against the Bengals during that time. Cincinnati witnessed Wagner develop into an above average right tackle inside their division before Wagner joined the Detroit Lions in the 2017 offseason. The five-year, $47.5MM deal Wagner signed became the largest for a right tackle at the time.
Wagner had two more productive years in Detroit before knee injuries caused him to miss multiple games and underperform in 2019. The Lions released him in the 2020 offseason and the Packers signed him to a much cheaper two-year, $11MM deal.
If he does want to keep playing and wouldn’t mind joining a team that finished at the bottom of its division last year, Wagner would be an ideal signing for the Bengals. The club can sign him as soon as they please, and they can cross the right tackle position off of their free agency wish list.
Adding Wagner on a short-term deal, however, should not impact what the Bengals do in the draft. If the Bengals can get a long-term solution at right tackle in April, Wagner’s presence should not get in the way of that.
We shall see what market develops for a very solid player in Wagner.