Packers freeing up salary cap space to sign J.J. Watt?

The Green Bay Packers have cut two veterans — linebacker Christian Kirksey and tackle Rick Wagner.

The moves clear up over $10 million in cap space for a team that was already up against the $180 million salary cap limit. Kirksey missed five games last season due to injury, and was surpassed on the depth chart by several younger contributors. Cutting the 28-year-old frees up about $6 million under the cap.

Wagner, meanwhile, was a little more of a surprise. The Packers right tackle had a rough showing in the NFC Championship Game, with Jason Pierre-Paul specifically making him look rather pedestrian. It turns out the Green Bay front office saw that tape, and came away with the same impression the general public did. Releasing Wagner clears up the other $4 million in cap space.

Do the Packers now have enough available funds to make an offer to J.J. Watt?

Packers fans are right to connect this most recent news to a potential Watt push, but a Wisconsin homecoming would still come at a discount from what more cap-savvy teams, such as the Cleveland Browns, could offer him on the open market. Not to mention, Green Bay still has other needs, including now at right tackle Cornerback and depth at wide receiver are also two pressing needs early this offseason.

Watt is taking his time in the free agency process, and he’s right to do so. It’s the first time in his career he’s been greeted with such a choice. Watt’s preference comes down to playing for a contender and being paid what he’s worth. He’s no longer a first-team All-Pro pass rusher, but he’s still potentially Pro Bowl caliber when fully healthy, and in a defensive scheme that plays to his strengths.

The Packers are in stiff competition with the Browns, Steelers, Bills, Titans and seemingly half the NFL for Watt’s services. Clearing up some cap room is a start, but it’s not a guarantee that Watt will return home for the 2021 season.

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