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Inbox: It speaks volumes

Free agency is a game of risk and sometimes brilliant breakthroughs

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LB Christian Kirksey

Jake from Los Angeles, CA

Maybe Philip Rivers will actually have some time in the pocket now. Stoked for Bryan Bulaga. Will miss him on the team. Hopefully, the team doesn't end up missing him on the field.

Who wants to tell him? Good morning!

Dave from Yeovil, Somerset

Did the fact Christian Kirksey was nominated for the Walter Payton Award in 2018 sway the Pack into picking him up? Clearly, he has the right personality to fit into the green and gold.

Kirksey has been lauded for his leadership and character going back to his time at Iowa. He was a two-time captain for Hawkeyes and it took only three years for him to wear the 'C' once he got to Cleveland. It speaks volumes. Kirksey is one of the best at his position when healthy. Again, he's still only 27. The past two years were tough for Kirksey but there's reason to believe the best is yet to come.

Evan from Middleton, WI

Did Kirksey normally wear the headset helmet with Cleveland?

He played every defensive snap in 2017, so I assume he did. I'll ask whenever we have media availability with him.

Myles from Mesa, AZ

Hi Wes! Thank you so much for your hard work writing II. Through these trying times, II is extremely therapeutic. My question to you, crystal ball in hand, is a future All-Pro middle linebacker, tight end, and wide receiver. Which do you choose?

The great thing about the way Gutekunst uses free agency is it allows him to keep all his options on the table, so the front office isn't handcuffed on draft night. I think a first-round receiver would do wonders for this offense but Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray are really intriguing linebackers, as well. Flip a coin between those two positions and let me know how it goes.

Simon from Køge, Denmark

Hi II, I have an autograph from Blake Martinez, which is a big deal to me, being from Europe. My good friend, who is a known face within the esport community, did a show-quiz with Blake and asked for an autograph because he knew I was a big Packers fan. I watched the show-quiz and it was really funny seeing that side of him. I wish him nothing but the best in New York. Oh, and Blake won the quiz.

I enjoyed my time covering Blake. Win or lose, he was super-accessible at all times and never got terse with reporters. He's what you want in a leader and communicator. So I'm happy to see him rewarded.

Larissa from Minnetonka, MN

We've let a lot of beloved (and consensus upper echelon) linemen go in recent years. Overall, we've been fairly successful in replacing them. Does the organization just think that O-linemen who are older than 30 are unlikely to deliver the value of big contracts, so it's best to cut bait early rather than late even if individually there will always be exceptions that don't look good in hindsight? End of an era with T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Bryan gone!

I see it more as a product of how expensive offensive linemen have become. Historically, left tackles were the premium position but that has changed in recent years. Lang and Bulaga both signed lucrative deals elsewhere, and good for them. They deserved it.

James from Green Bay, WI

At one foot, two inches, at least we know Kirksey's pad level can't be beat.

Legendary. Did you see how he attacked ball carriers in those videos? He's the personification of ruthless aggression. Seriously, Google those videos and try not to laugh.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, thank you for the insightful articles on Rick Wagner and Christian Kirksey. What is the current health status on both players coming off known injuries?

The signings were posted on the NFL transaction wire, so it appears both players are good to go. Kirksey reportedly took a visit to Green Bay before the coronavirus pandemic took off, so I imagine the Packers got all the information they wanted before agreeing to terms.

Jake from Athens, GA

Wes, is the pre-free-agency period usually this active? Lots of big news the last couple of days.

The two-day negotiating window is always pretty active. I think the difference this year is all this movement with high-profile quarterbacks. There are a lot more eyeballs on this thing with Tom Brady, Rivers and Cam Newton floating out there. I also think more folks are glued to their screens this year with all the quarantining.

Timmy from Chicago, IL

The Raiders land Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. If there is a silver lining, it would be the Packers chances of landing one of the top MLB in the draft just went up slightly.

Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock took a page out of Chicago's blueprint from four years ago when the Bears signed Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan. Freeman didn't work but Trevathan did. We'll see how the Raiders do.

Paul from Winnebago, IL

What are the players doing during the quarantine?

Most are working out, in small groups or individually.

Statham from Pineview, GA

The wife and I already had already planned to attend the Tampa Bay game this season, as it is only a 5-hour drive for us. Now that Brady has announced he is leaving NE, I am licking my chops for a Rodgers vs. Brady game.

The Packers travel to Tampa in 2020 as a part of the three-year schedule rotation with the NFC South. I have a hunch the interest in that game just spiked a few levels.

John from Oxford, UK

Be honest WesHod, how many "questions" have you seen this week linking this kid "Tom Brady" to the Packers? Have you set up any sort of auto-delete function?

More than I wish to disclose. Some were obviously joking but there also was a small group of folks convinced Brady would want to be an insurance policy at this stage of his career.

Andy from Verona, WI

Which free-agent contract was the most surprising so far? Which free agent are you most surprised has not agreed to a contract yet?

I was blown away by what the Bears reportedly gave Robert Quinn. As of early Wednesday morning, I haven't heard a word about Robby Anderson or really any running back. That surprises me.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Thank you Buffalo for taking Stefon Diggs out of the division to a play where I expect him to be even more cantankerous. I'm not liking the Vikes having two first-rounders ahead of us, though. Your thoughts?

Stefon Diggs netted more in a trade than DeAndre Hopkins. That's what really, really surprised me. The Packers won't see Diggs again until 2022…or the postseason. We'll see what the Vikings turn those first-round picks into.

Sharon from Lakewood Ranch, FL

First time - after all these years! Anyway, have a lot of love for '17', but to take advantage of his talent, who would be the best WR to add to the present mix, if available in the draft or FA? Also, for health sake - reverse osmosis - butt first, then hands!

Welcome. Some good receivers will hit the market today but I've been beating the drum for addressing the position in the first two days of the draft. Have you guys seen any of these videos from Henry Ruggs III? What a specimen.

James from Charlottesville, VA

In your opinion, did the Packers think they could upgrade over Blake Martinez at inside linebacker or was the asking price too much for the Packers to afford?

Martinez got a nice three-year deal at fairly high APY salary for an ILB. Cory Littleton didn't get much more than that from Las Vegas (that's still really weird to write for me). I think the timing was probably right for all parties involved. Martinez gets to reunite with Patrick Graham in New York and Christian Kirksey reunites with Mike Pettine in Green Bay.

Matthew from Portland, OR

Wes, why is the new CBA scheduled for 11 years? I would think a shorter time frame would be better to allow for flexibility and proactivity year-to-year.

The CBA runs in 10-year increments (without an opt-out). You get that 11th year because there was one year left on the previous CBA. The league and its ownership want that type of security, especially when it comes to negotiating media contracts.

Scott from Greensburg, IN

Does your gut tell you we "took one on the outside corner," or "swung and missed" on Austin Hooper?

Sometimes you gotta lay off the pitch regardless of what the umpire calls. I think that's what the Packers did with Hooper. Good player who's going to make a lot of money.

Chris from Frederick, MD

Do Kirksey and Wagner count towards the compensatory pick formula?

No, because both were released from their contracts with their previous teams. So right now, the Packers would get the full value in the compensatory formula with Bulaga, Martinez and Kyler Fackrell signing elsewhere. Early estimates have Bulaga and Martinez netting fourth-round compensatory picks.

Nicole from Trempealeau, WI

How does the virus affect signing of new free agents?

It's caused the NFL and NFLPA to formulate a different plan for how players undergo physicals before signing. It's not a surprise to see the coveted free agents fly off the shelves right now. What's going to be telling is what happens in this next wave of free agency.

Lucas from La Crosse, WI

Anyone taking bets that Martinez will be the next Casey Hayward or Micah Hyde story? Draft and develop…for other teams.

There's only one way to find out. There's no rewind button for NFL GMs. Free agency is a game of calculated risk, leading to either disappointment or brilliant breakthroughs. But you won't know until you know, even if you say you always did.

Cindy from Los Angeles, CA

Hi Wes, I think we can assume that the offseason programs will be delayed this year. Will the CBA allow for rescheduling minicamps and OTAs, and removing some of the dead zone in June/July, or is that time not flexible?

I don't believe there will be that type of flexibility. My best guess is the NFL will try to salvage as much of the offseason program as possible before the mid-June break. It's not a great situation but it's also not unprecedented. There was no offseason program during the lockout in 2011.

Dan from Cross Plains, WI

I was curious how cap management works, and more specifically, whether a team can inadvertently go over the cap. If so, what penalties are there for going over? Or are there checks and balances in place so that when a team submits a contract to the NFL, the league checks to make sure the contract does not put them over the cap?

Before the start of the new league year, every team must be in the black and cannot go over the hard cap. If they do, teams can be fined millions, lose draft picks and even have contracts voided. To sign a player in free agency, the team must have room (or make room) to execute a contract.

Chuck from Horicon, WI

Has it been announced which team will be at training camp for the Packers to practice against? Also, have you heard if there are other teams doing this? I think it would be in the best interest for most teams to do this with the loss of one preseason game! Thanks.

Not yet. Matt LaFleur only said there are plans in place to host another team for joint practices later this summer. Joint practices are already popular but I definitely could see more teams hosting them once the league downshifts to three preseason games.

David from Minneapolis, MN

With the new CBA, do the salaries of our II writers increase?

I wish.

Patrick from Valrico, FL

Now that Bryan Bulaga and Martinez have been replaced by cheaper options, what is the next move to make the current team better? The moves appeared to be a setup for something bigger but the options are dwindling quickly.

Free agency isn't over, Patrick. Technically, it hasn't even started. There's still plenty of time and space to add more free agents. The Packers also have 10 draft choices and quite a few young players already on the roster to improve the 2020 squad.

Tom from West Salem, WI

It looks like our chances to host the draft just became a little smaller. I assume Las Vegas will get one of those open years coming up.

There hasn't been a formal announcement yet but I think the league has to offer Vegas another draft – 2022 and 2024 are currently open dates. The Vegas area has taken a big hit over the past two weeks and could use an event of that magnitude to boost the recovery efforts.

Elliot from Minneapolis, MN

The Houston Texans are starting to look like the team that my buddy and I always fleece in Madden trades, but in real life...

It reminds me of my childhood when my friends used to fleece me of my best sports cards. I once traded a Marshall Faulk rookie card for some common Chris Webber Fleer Ultra card.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

Soon NFL teams will no longer be able to finish as an average team at .500. You're either a winner or a loser. Big deal or no big deal?

Oh, I think there's still a team out capable of an 8-8-1 campaign. I can feel it.

Scott from Fredonia, WI

If the NFL is forced to play in empty stadiums, will the Vikings still blow their foghorn after every first down?

Have the Vikings ever turned down an opportunity to toot their own horn?

Bob from Colby, KS

Actually soap and water are proven to be better than the anti-bacterial stuff. Soap kills the bad stuff. Anti-bacterial kills the good stuff. So, take the soap off the shelf and hoard the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

Hence, why I grabbed the soap.

Lisa from Plymouth, MN

Wes, I just want to encourage you. Don't lose heart! As far as COVID-19, it all gets pretty exhausting, doesn't it? Today, I decided to put a new spin on that term. Maybe it will help you. Confident Of Victory In (the midst of) Difficult times. And the 19? If you're really struggling with all of it, repeat the phrase 19 times. II is not only the Insider Inbox but sometimes it's also the Inspiration Inbox. You and Mike do great work! Don't underestimate the value of this gift! Thanks!

I'll jot that down, Lisa. Thank you.

Gary from Hope Mills, NC

I would sincerely like to thank Mike, Wes, Blake, and everyone in this community for your thoughts and prayers. You will never know how much it means to me. I also want to thank Ty Montgomery, I messaged him and had no idea he would respond and agree to pray. All your efforts might have worked because he began breathing on his own Tuesday without a ventilator. He still has a poor prognosis of recovery because of the amount of brain tissue that has died. But I'll never forget this support.

Hang in there, Gary. We're all behind you.

Richard from Farmington Hills, MI

Tell Matthias I was at my doctor's office for my annual physical today and overheard him tell a patient on the phone that they'd tested positive. He later told me there were so many calls to the Michigan Dept. of Health from doctors reporting positive tests that the phones were too busy and they should fax the information. I'm hunkered down and hope all of our II fans stay safe.

Do your part. Flatten the curve, folks. Talk you guys tomorrow.

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