Kirksey, who turns 28 in August, has played in nine games over the past two seasons due to injury, but thanks to his tremendous character and athleticism, combined with his scheme-versatile success from 2016 and 2017, he was a highly sought free agent upon hitting the open market a week ago. His contract with Green Bay is for two years and totals $16 million.
Given Green Bay’s desperate need for linebacker help, him signing there makes some sense. The connection to Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine also helps, as Pettine was Kirksey’s head coach for two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Given the money that Green Bay gave him to sign there, it’s understandable why the Bills didn’t end up winning the contest for Kirksey’s services.
While Kirksey absolutely would have helped the defense, and he would have been a perfect fit in the scheme, Buffalo already employs two every-down linebackers in Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds. Paying someone $8 million per season to play around half of a team’s defensive snaps would not have been a prudent move financially.
The free-agent negotiating period, commonly known as the “legal tampering period,” opens today at noon Eastern. Kirksey was eligible to sign before the official opening of the season since he was released by the Cleveland Browns prior to the expiration of his contract.
In addition to visiting the Bills and Packers, Kirksey also visited the Las Vegas Raiders.