Nov 15, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (30) is tackled by Green Bay Packers linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Packers release LB Christian Kirksey, OT Rick Wagner

The Green Bay Packers announced Friday that they released linebacker Christian Kirksey and offensive tackle Rick Wagner.

The moves will help the team when it comes to the salary cap. Kirksey was slated to receive $5.6 million in 2021 salary and bonuses, while Wagner was set to receive $4.25 million in salary and bonuses.

Kirksey recorded 77 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks in 11 games (all starts) in 2020, his lone season with the Packers. He missed five games due to a pectoral injury.

Kirksey, 28, spent his first six NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

Kirksey has 561 tackles, 13.5 sacks, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in 84 career games (65 starts).

Wagner, 31, also was a newcomer to the Packers in 2020 and started nine regular-season games. He also started the team’s two postseason games at right tackle.

Overall, Wagner has started 96 of 118 games played in eight seasons with the Baltimore Ravens (2013-16), Detroit Lions (2017-19) and Packers.

–Field Level Media

Feb 4, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA;  Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Mahomes early favorite to win 2021 NFL MVP award

The dust has barely settled from Super Bowl LV and all eyes have turned back to Patrick Mahomes.

Despite seeing his Kansas City Chiefs come up short in the big game last week, Mahomes has been installed as the early favorite to win NFL Most Valuable Player honors for the 2021 season.

Mahomes, who won the award in 2018, is listed at +500 by DraftKings.

Mahomes, 25, is expected to be motivated after throwing for 4,740 yards and 38 touchdowns during the regular season before enduring one of the worst games of his NFL career in last Sunday’s 31-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He completed 26 of 49 passes for 270 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in Super Bowl LV.

Reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers resides at +800 to capture his fourth such award.

Rodgers received 44 votes to earn his third career MVP award (2011, 2014) on Feb. 6. Rodgers led the league with 48 touchdown passes, a 70.7 percent completion rate and a 121.5 rating.

Fellow quarterbacks Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills) and Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) are both listed at +1300 to win the 2021 NFL MVP.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is fifth on the list at +1500 following his trade from the Detroit Lions.

Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady of the Buccaneers sits at +1600 to win his fourth NFL MVP honor, while Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has the same odds to capture his second in three years.

The first non-quarterbacks on the list are Tennessee Titans bulldozer Derrick Henry and fellow running back Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers. Both are at +3300.

–Field Level Media

Aug 24, 2020; Milwaukee, WI, USA;   Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is shown Monday, August 24, 2020 during the team's training camp in Green Bay, Wis.  Mandatory Credit:  Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Bears add ex-Packers DC Mike Pettine to coaching staff

Nearly two weeks after being allowed to depart the Green Bay Packers as defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine will remain in the NFC North after being hired by the Chicago Bears Wednesday as a senior defensive assistant.

The Bears announced the move to add the experienced voice in Pettine, a former defensive coordinator with three teams, to the defensive staff under new coordinator Sean Desai. The 37-year-old Desai has never been a defensive coordinator in his coaching career.

Pettine, 54, spent the past three seasons in charge of the Green Bay defense. Technically, Pettine was not fired after this past season, but his contract was expiring and the team decided to let him leave the organization in the aftermath of the NFC Championship game loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 24.

This past season with Green Bay, Pettine’s defense ranked in the NFL’s top 10 in both total defense (ninth, 334.0 total yards allowed per game) and pass defense (seventh, 221.2 pass yards allowed per game). But he took public criticism from Packers head coach Matt LaFleur for calling man coverage late in the first half in the Tampa Bay loss, resulting in a touchdown pass shortly before halftime in a 31-26 defeat.

In addition to serving as defensive coordinator for the New York Jets (2009-12), Buffalo Bills (2013) and Packers (2018-20), Pettine was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns for two seasons in 2014-15. The Browns were 10-22 under his watch.

–Field Level Media

Aug 21, 2020; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams linebackers coach Joe Barry during training camp at Cal Lutheran University. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Packers to hire Joe Barry as defensive coordinator

The Green Bay Packers are poised to hire Joe Barry to be their next defensive coordinator, ESPN and NFL Network reported Saturday.

Barry, 50, who has been with the Los Angeles Rams as their linebackers coach, would replace Mike Pettine, not retained by the Packers after his contract expired following their loss in the NFC Championship Game.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur had narrowed the finalists down to Barry and Wisconsin’s Jim Leonhard, who reportedly turned down the job earlier Saturday. LaFleur reportedly interviewed at least nine candidates.

This will be Barry’s third stint as a DC, having served in Detroit (2007-08) and Washington (2015-16).

–Field Level Media

Sep 20, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) talks with head coach Matt LaFleur during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Packers ‘absolutely’ expect QB Aaron Rodgers back in 2021

Aaron Rodgers is “absolutely” the quarterback of the present and future for the Green Bay Packers.

Head coach Matt LaFleur said in a video press conference Monday that the likely league MVP is unquestionably returning to the team. That expectation came into question following the NFC Championship game loss, when Rodgers said his future was unclear.

“Is that a trick question? Absolutely,” LaFleur said Monday. “There’s no doubt about it. You’re talking about the guy who’s going to win the MVP of the league. We’re not in this position without him.”

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday morning that the Rams attempted to acquire Rodgers before pulling the trigger on a trade for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on Saturday. According the report, Los Angeles GM Les Snead was unequivocally rebuffed in the trade bid.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst was asked about that conversation on Monday.

“There’s no truth to that whatsoever,” Gutekunst said.

Gutekunst expounded on the team’s position on Rodgers and shared the expectation that they would be together “for years to come.”

“He’s our quarterback. He’s our leader,” Gutekunst said.

He didn’t stop there.

“What we’re trying to do as an organization, and what we’re trying to accomplish, we can’t do without Aaron Rodgers right now,” Gutekunst said.

Rodgers is the favorite to win NFL Most Valuable Player honors for the third time after passing for 4,299 yards and a franchise-record 48 touchdowns. He has two years remaining on a $134 million contract extension. But questions began circling from Rodgers himself and onlookers after the Packers traded up to select quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.

“We’re not idiots,” Packers CEO Mark Murphy told The 5th Quarter Show on WNFL in Green Bay last week. “Aaron Rodgers will be back. He’s our leader.”

LaFleur said Monday the Packers are still talking to candidates to replace Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator. LaFleur admitted a miscommunication with Pettine at the end of the first half of the team’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cost the Packers dearly.

He also said he’s considering passing off playcalling duties to Nathaniel Hackett to free himself to oversee the larger operation.

–Field Level Media

Aug 24, 2020; Milwaukee, WI, USA;   Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is shown Monday, August 24, 2020 during the team's training camp in Green Bay, Wis.  Mandatory Credit:  Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Packers fire defensive coordinator Mike Pettine

Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is done in Green Bay.

Technically, Pettine’s contract is expiring but the Packers are splitting with the former head coach and longtime coordinator in the aftermath of the NFC Championship game loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Pettine was retained by head coach Matt LaFleur in 2019 and spent the past three seasons — one under Mike McCarthy — as defensive coordinator.

“We want to thank Mike for his commitment to the Packers for the last three seasons. He was an important part of our success. As a first-time head coach, he was also an invaluable resource for us during our time together,” said LaFleur in a statement. “We wish Mike, Megan, and the rest of their family the best moving forward.”

LaFleur’s next hire will be the Packers’ third defensive coordinator in five seasons. Dom Capers was fired by McCarthy after the 2017 season.

The Packers also officially dismissed special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga.

–Field Level Media

Sep 20, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  General view of the outside of Lambeau Field prior to the game between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Packers promote Maurice Drayton to lead special teams

The Green Bay Packers are promoting Maurice Drayton to special teams coordinator, multiple outlets reported Thursday.

Drayton, 44, has been the Packers’ assistant special teams coach for the past three seasons.

He replaces Shawn Mennenga, who was reportedly let go by head coach Mike LaFleur on Wednesday in the wake of the Packers’ 31-26 loss Sunday to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game.

Before joining Green Bay in January 2018, Drayton was an assistant special teams coach with the Indianapolis Colts for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

He also coached in the collegiate ranks at The Citadel (2014-15), Southern Mississippi (2012), Coastal Carolina (2010-11) and South Carolina State (2008-09), and in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes (2013).

–Field Level Media

Aug 24, 2020; Milwaukee, WI, USA;   Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga is shown Monday, August 24, 2020 during the team's training camp in Green Bay, Wis.  Mandatory Credit:  Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Reports: Packers fire special teams coordinator

Three days after losing the NFC Championship, the Green Bay Packers reportedly made a coaching move Wednesday, firing special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga.

Multiple media outlets reported the transaction.

Mennenga, 50, joined the Packers before the start of the 2019 season, starting at the same time that Matt LaFleur took over as Green Bay’s head coach.

According to NFL.com, the Packers were the only team in the league to give up more than one punt-return touchdown in 2020, yielding two. They also had a punt blocked and made several other critical special teams gaffes.

Mennenga was an assistant coach for multiple college programs, including Western Kentucky and South Dakota State, before serving as the Cleveland Browns’ assistant special teams coach from 2011-17. He spent 2018 as Vanderbilt’s special teams coordinator before joining the Packers the following season.

Green Bay went 13-3 in the 2020 regular season, then beat the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 in the NFC divisional playoffs before losing 31-26 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in the NFC title game.

–Field Level Media

Aug 3, 2019; Canton, OH, USA;  General overall view of the Pro Football Hall of Fame logo. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Packers S LeRoy Butler on HOF: ‘Maybe next year’

Former Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler said he won’t be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, tweeting “maybe next year” on Wednesday.

“It’s always a good thing, to be discussed with the best to ever play THE GAME!” added Butler, who was one of the 15 modern-era finalists for induction into Canton, Ohio.

The voting has already been conducted, but the results will not be released until Feb. 6, the day before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.

Butler, 52, was a four-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl selection who was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1990s.

He appeared in 181 games for the Packers from 1990-2001, registering 38 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and 20.5 sacks. Butler helped Green Bay defeat the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI.

The other finalists, in alphabetical order, are Jared Allen, Ronde Barber, Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca, Torry Holt, Calvin Johnson, John Lynch, Peyton Manning, Clay Matthews Sr., Sam Mills, Richard Seymour, Zach Thomas, Reggie Wayne and Charles Woodson.

–Field Level Media

Jan 19, 2020; Santa Clara, CA USA;  Green Bay Packers president and chief executive officer Mark Murphy in attendance before the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levin's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Packers CEO: ‘We’re not idiots. Aaron Rodgers will be back’

Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy did his best to clear the air surrounding speculation of Aaron Rodgers’ future with the team.

“We’re not idiots,” Murphy told The 5th Quarter Show on WNFL in Green Bay. “Aaron Rodgers will be back. He’s our leader.”

The rumor mill in regard to Rodgers’ future with the team was set in motion mere moments after the Packers dropped a 31-26 decision to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. Rodgers, 37, helped fuel conjecture by placing himself in a group of players with “uncertain” futures.

“There’s a lot of unknowns going into this offseason now. I’m going to have to take some time away, for sure, and clear my head and just kind of see what’s going on with everything,” Rodgers said. “But it’s pretty tough right now, especially thinking about the guys that may or may not be here next year. There’s always change. That’s the only constant in this business.”

Rodgers is the favorite to win NFL Most Valuable Player honors for the third time after passing for 4,299 yards and a franchise-record 48 touchdowns. Then again, questions began circling after the Packers traded up to select quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.

From a financial standpoint, Rodgers reportedly is interested in a new deal on the heels of a sterling season. The third NFL MVP honor for Rodgers would prevent the second in three seasons for Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who received a 10-year, $503 million deal in July.

Rodgers has two seasons left on a four-year, $134 million contract. He would not be an easy player to move via trade.

Andrew Brandt, who is a former agent and worked in the Packers’ front office, noted that the quarterback could have leveraged more in terms adjusting the deal to the marketplace had he waited to sign a contract and not jumped at the deal in 2018.

Rodgers agreed to a then-NFL record $57.5 million signing bonus, with $78.7 million fully guaranteed at the signing.

–Field Level Media