Kirksey agreed to a two-year, $16MM deal with Green Bay, per Garafolo. The six-year veteran will reunite with Mike Pettine, the Packers’ DC who drafted him when he was the Browns’ head coach back in 2014.
This marks a notable move for a Packers team that does not usually devote much funding to off-ball linebackers. The team is expected to let top tackler Blake Martinez hit the market and find his second contract elsewhere. Now, the team has an $8MM-AAV contract at this position. Kirksey also adds to a suddenly expensive linebacking corps, with Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith each earning north of $13MM annually.
It represents another deviation under GM Brian Gutekunst, who has shown a greater willingness to spend in free agency than predecessor Ted Thompson. However, this signing — since Kirksey was a street free agent — will not affect the Packers’ compensatory formula.
The 27-year-old linebacker visited the Raiders and Bills while also communicating with the Ravens. Despite coming off two injury-marred seasons, the recently released defender landed a contract that pays him nearly what his previous Browns deal did. Cleveland signed Kirksey to a $9.5MM-per-year extension and saw the former third-round pick total 286 tackles between the 2016-17 seasons. He will now have a chance to revive his career in a familiar system.
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