Going into the 2020 offseason, Green Bay Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the Packers front office knew that the team would not be able to go on as much of a “spending-spree” as they did a year ago. The 2019 free agency class for Green Bay brought in star linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith along with safety Adrian Amos and offensive guard Billy Turner. Those four contracts ate up the majority of the cap space remaining for the 2020 season. Gutekunst, doing what he does, did the best he could do with the situation on hand. Below are the highlights of the Packers 2020 free agency class.
Recap of the Green Bay Packers Free Agency
Devin Funchess, Wide Receiver
In late March, the Packers signed veteran receiver Devin Funchess to a 1-year, $2.5 million contract which includes a $1 million signing bonus along with $3.75 million in play for incentives. When the news first broke, I was somewhat hesitant to what I should think of this signing; then I did my research. Funchess is a 25-year-old who still has a lot to prove in the NFL. His best season was in 2017 when he tallied 63 receptions, 840 yards, and 8 touchdowns. With the Packers needing to figure out who their definite number two wide receiver is, Funchess could very well step up and assume that role.
The one concern that comes with Funchess is whether or not he can stay healthy. He is coming off a season in which he played just one game with the Indianapolis Colts due to a broken clavicle suffered early in the season.
Overall, this is a pretty good find for the Packers. Funchess wasn’t by any means their favorite pass-catcher in free agency. However, they simply did not have enough money to compete with teams for higher-rated receivers. One can assume that GM Brian Gutekunst will still be looking to add more depth for at the wide receiver position when the NFL Draft comes around later this month.
Christian Kirksey, Linebacker
This Christian Kirksey signing for the Packers comes as one they knew they needed coming into free agency: an inside linebacker. With the Smith brothers dominating the outside, Gutekunst knew this was a position that had to be filled. It wasn’t surprising at all for Packers fans to see Blake Martinez walk as it was obvious he was not the guy Green Bay needed. Sure, he got a ton of tackles, but many of them came down-field or after his own busted coverage. The Packers hope Kirksey can turn into more of a reliable piece in the 3-4 defense than Martinez was. However, injuries will be another thing to keep an eye on with Kirksey as he has played in just nine games over the past two seasons.
Another reason Gutekunst brought in Kirksey is for his experience with Mike Pettine. In the two years’ Pettine served as the Cleveland Browns head coach (2014-2015), which just happened to be Kirksey’s first two years in the NFL. Taking Kirksey on with just a 2-year, $16 million contract seems like a no brainer. This add does not entirely solve the inside linebacker problem, so, it is a position of need. He will also serve as a mentor to other linebackers the Packers decide to draft.
Ricky Wagner, Tackle
When the Packers announced the signing of offensive tackle Ricky Wagner, it was written on the walls that right tackle Bryan Bulaga would not be coming back to Green Bay. A couple of days later, Bulaga signed a 3-year, $30 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. He will be greatly missed by all Packer fans, but it was the right thing to do. At 31 years old, GM Gutekunst didn’t think that money was worth the risk and I think many cheeseheads would agree.
As for Wagner, I have no expectations of him filling Bulaga’s shoes and taking over, and no one else should either. With a 2-year, $11 million contract, the former Detroit Lion should act as an interim offensive lineman as Green Bay attempts to find their right tackle of the future in this years’ draft.
Go Pack Go!
In this years’ free agency for the Packers, it’s pretty obvious the team didn’t get exactly who they wanted. However, they didn’t come away empty-handed either. All three free agents signed play the three positions Green Bay needed to add most before the start of the 2020 season. Nevertheless, wide receiver, inside linebacker, and the offensive line will likely still be the three positions Green Bay focuses on most in the first-ever virtual draft at the end of this month.
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