Packers Waste No Time Upgrading Middle Linebacker Position
Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst came out of the first day of legal tampering firing. He signed middle linebacker Christian Kirksey before we go to 9:00 AM CST. It is impressive, to say the least from Packers general manager who did more wheeling and dealing in free agency. Kirksey is a Mike Pettine guy as the former Browns head coach drafted him in 2014. They had a great relationship from a player-coach perspective. Once again, Gutekunst is working with Pettine to add more guys that fit his system. Kirksey could be a stud for the Packers if he avoids the injury bug. The middle linebacker will be a replacement for Blake Martinez.
There are a lot of things to like about Kirksey in Green Bay’s system. For starters, he can play both the run and the pass as a middle linebacker. That is something Blake Martinez could not do as he struggles against receivers through his career in Green Bay. The great thing about Kirksey is he can be a day one leader. He knows Pettine’s system, and it will not take much time to fit in. Additionally, Browns voted him captain multiple years and known for being a hell of a dude adding to the culture Green Bay built overnight with Gutekunst.
The other thing to like about Kirksey is the ability to rush the passer. Not all middle linebackers have the ability to rush the passers effectively. Martinez had his moments, but the lack of speed led to more misfires than hits. The former Iowa standout does have the ability to get to the quarterback regularly. This gives Pettine more tools to play with when it comes to blitz packages.
The one worry is the injuries. Kirksey missed eight games in 2018 and missed almost the entire season last year. The good news is they are not the same type of injury. One was a hamstring in 2018 while he tore his pectoral in 2019. They’re not two leg injuries. A torn pectoral is a big injury, but it’s not a full-blown out knee or Achilles tendon. The injury stuff does not scare me as much as some might wonder with him.
Adding a linebacker in free agency does not mean the Packers couldn’t draft one in the first round. I still think it’s on the table, but it pushes that idea into less of a stressful thing for Brian Gutekunst.