Lewis’ numbers haven’t been big in his two seasons with the club — he’s had a total of 18 catches and one touchdown — but quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been a big fan of the 35-year-old. He refers to the UCLA product as “Big Dog,” and even used the nickname to alert Lewis on an audible against the New York Giants last year that led to his lone touchdown reception.
Bringing Lewis back for a 15th season will keep an experienced voice in the room after Jimmy Graham was released last week. Before Lewis returned, the only players guaranteed to be back at the position were Jace Sternberger, Robert Tonyan and Evan Baylis. That trio has combined for 14 catches in the regular season and all of them belong to Tonyan, though Sternberger did grab his first catch and touchdown in the NFC title loss to San Francisco.
It’s possible the club could look to add another body in free agency or the NFL Draft in April.
The Chargers will be just the second team that Bulaga has played for since coming into the league as a first-round pick of the Packers in 2010. Pressed into the starting lineup midway through that season, Bulaga helped Green Bay to a win in Super Bowl XLV.
Injuries were an issue for him, as he played in all 16 regular season games just three times in his 10-year career. But one of those came in 2019 when he played at a very high level despite dealing with a knee injury.
Bulaga’s departure leaves the Packers with just two players currently signed that were a part of that Super Bowl winning team — quarterback Aaron Rodgers and kicker Mason Crosby.
Wagner, a former All-Big Ten tackle at Wisconsin, was reportedly signed on a two-year deal worth $11 million. He’s expected to be Bulaga’s replacement at right tackle, though the team is likely to add some more bodies along the line whether in free agency or the draft.
A fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Martinez was a constant on Green Bay’s defense from nearly the moment he stepped foot in Lambeau Field. He started nine games his rookie season and then all 48 over the last three years. The Stanford product was productive, too, racking up at least 144 tackles the last three seasons, including a career-high 155 in 2019. That was good enough for second in the NFL, trailing only Seattle All-Pro Bobby Wagner.
Martinez, though, was never a huge playmaker, recording just two forced fumbles and recording three interceptions in four years, while averaging 2.5 sacks per campaign.
Green Bay partly addressed its inside linebacker spot earlier on Monday by reportedly agreeing to a deal with Christian Kirksey. He was cut by the Cleveland Browns last week after being plagued by injuries the last two seasons. It’s likely the Packers will add another player or two at the position, whether through free agency or the draft.
Graham was cut by the Packers last week after two years with club, saving them $8 million in cap space. That came after he caught 93 passes and just five touchdowns the last two seasons.
Green Bay was thought to be in the market for a tight end, including Atlanta’s Austin Hooper. But he agreed to a deal with the Cleveland Browns on Monday that made him the highest-paid tight end in the league.
As it stands, the Packers have just two tight ends — Jace Sternberger and Evan Baylis — currently signed for next year, though Robert Tonyan is an exclusive rights free agent and will almost certainly be back. It’s possible the team could look at the position in the draft if they don’t like anything else on the free agent market.
According to the NFL Network, the club has agreed to a deal with offensive tackle Rick Wagner. He was cut by the Detroit Lions last week after signing a five-year deal with them in 2017. Prior to that, he was with the Baltimore Ravens.
The #Packers have agreed to terms with free agent RT Rick Wagner, formerly of the #Lions, per me and @MikeGarafolo. This signals what has become clear, that Bryan Bulaga is gone.
If the name sounds familiar, it should. Wagner was a standout at Wisconsin, starting at right tackle for 10 games in 2010 and then starting 27 games at left tackle the next two seasons. A former walk-on from West Allis, Wagner was taken in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by Baltimore.
Wagner started 40 games for Detroit over the last three seasons.
The signing of the veteran tackle puts the chances of Green Bay re-signing Bryan Bulaga near zero. The Packers and Bulaga’s representatives had reportedly not talked to each other since the season ended in January.
Rick Wagner (Packers): $11M total over two years base pay with $2.25M base salaries each year, plus $1M third day 2021 league year roster bonus, $250K workout bonus annual, up to $750K total annual workout bonus, plus $2.75M playtime base escalator in 2021, $500K incentive 2020
A third-round draft pick out of Iowa in 2014, Kirksey was a very productive player in his first four seasons with the Cleveland Browns, including back-to-back years of at least 138 tackles. He’s also shown to be a good coverage linebacker, something the Packers were in desperate need of.
But he’s struggled to stay healthy the last two years, playing in just nine games. In 2018, he missed two games with an ankle injury and seven more with a hamstring issue. Then, in the second game of 2019, he tore one of his pectoral tendons and missed the rest of the year.
Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is familiar with Kirksey, as he was the head coach of the Browns in the linebacker’s first two years. The 27-year-old Kirksey served as one of the Browns captains during his career.
Along with Green Bay, Kirksey visited the Las Vegas Raiders and Buffalo Bills last week
The addition of Kirksey almost certainly means linebacker Blake Martinez’s days are done with the club as he gets set to hit free agency when the NFL’s negotiating period opens Monday at noon.
There will be labor peace in the NFL for at least the next decade.
The NFL Players Association announced Sunday morning that its members had approved the new collective bargaining agreement. It was close, with only 60 votes separating those that wanted it approved and those that didn’t. Of the 1,978 that submitted votes, 1,019 voted yes.
While players will get a bigger piece of the revenue pie and see significant increases in minimum salaries, the most notable aspects of the new deal for fans will be the expanded playoffs and a 17-game season.
Starting in 2020, the playoffs will go from 12 teams to 14 teams. Instead of the top two teams in each conference getting a bye, only the top seed will. That means there will be six games on Wild Card weekend instead of four. Had this been in place for 2019, the Packers would not have gotten a bye and would have played the Los Angeles Rams in the first round.
There is no definite start date for the 17-game season, though we know it won’t be in 2020. When it does go into effect, there will still only be one bye week for teams, though there will also be one fewer preseason game. Teams will play an uneven number of home and road games, with some years playing eight at home and nine on the road and vice versa.
Several Packers had been outspoken against the deal, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who serves as the team’s NFLPA representative. Tackle David Bakhtiari also came out against it, as did former Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang.
The Green Bay Packers don’t have a game to play for months but the coronavirus pandemic is still impacting business.
The team announced Thursday evening it would close public operations at Lambeau Field for at least the next two weeks.
“Our priority is the health and safety of our staff and visitors,” Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said in press release. “This is a decision we made with all due consideration, and we feel it is an important step to take in helping mitigate the spread of the virus.”
Among the businesses impacted include all those inside the Lambeau Field Atrium and all team-run activities in Titletown.
The club also said only critical staff would be allowed to work inside Lambeau Field with all others being required to work from home. Also, all business-related travel for coaches and scouts has been suspended.
That said, GM Brian Gutekunst and his staff are still working as if free agency will begin next week as is currently planned. Same with the coaches.
Unclear whether the football facilities are open to any players who might still be in around. https://t.co/KVRq1d3IAr
In unsurprising news, Jimmy Graham won’t be back with the Green Bay Packers.
The team announced Thursday it had released the tight end after two years. Graham had one year left on his $30 million contract and his departure frees up $8 million in cap space for the Packers.
Graham never became the true playmaker the team was hoping for at the position. He’s managed to produce just 93 catches and a total of five touchdowns over the past two years, though he did have a solid postseason in January.
Green Bay reportedly has interest in targeting Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper, who will be a free agent. He is a two-time Pro Bowl player that’s managed 10 scores the last couple of seasons.
The team is also high on Jace Sternberger. A third-round pick last spring, an injury kept him off the field until early November. He ended up playing in eight games, including both postseason contests. All three of his career catches came in the playoffs, as did his first touchdown.
Elsewhere at the position, veteran Mercedes Lewis is an unrestricted free agent but could return, while Robert Tonyan is an exclusive rights free agent and will be back.