The Green Bay Packers began their offseason in spectacular fashion by separating from linebacker Christian Kirksey after one season at Wisconsin. He signed a two-year, $13 million contract last season, but ultimately couldn’t finish.

He recorded a total of 77 tackles, 2.0 sacks and two interceptions in 11 games for Green Bay. The Packers’ decision to release him was primarily to create more room on the roster to make significant additions in the upcoming offseason. Kirksey’s current contract for the 2020 season has reached the $7.6 million ceiling and is expected to bring in $2 million in dead money.

Despite the cups, Kirksey is still at the top of his career at the age of 28 and could still be a useful asset to any team that lacks production on defense.

Here are two of the best options as we approach the 2021 NFL season for an Iowa product:

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills may have been above average in 2020, but they could have done even better if they just had a bigger defensive rotation. Their inconsistent defense eventually haunted them at the end of the season, when they gave up 24 points to the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round, before their offense saved them and they scored 27 points to advance to the next round.

After a great game against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC divisional round, the Baltimore Ravens’ defense weakened even more when they faced the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game. Chiefs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was unable to respond to the Chiefs’ shot as quarterback Patrick Mahomes easily led his team to a 38-24 victory.

It goes without saying that the Bills are desperate for a versatile linebacker to improve their defense, which is ranked 20th to become champions, and Christian Kirksey would be a great option. In fact, defensive veteran Trent Murphy is already entering the offseason as a free agent, while setter Jerry Hughes is entering the final year of his contract next season.

With rookie A.J. Epenez showing promise, the Bills would be wise to add depth to their defensive rotation next season. Fixing the gaping holes in this area could turn the Bills into a more complete team that could run an extended postseason race in the coming years.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has already taken some steps to improve last season’s poor defensive unit. However, the experiment didn’t work because their recruits were overwhelmed, leaving them unable to repel enemy attacks. They ranked just 21st in terms of yards allowed per pass attempt and 28 points allowed per game.

Despite the low score, all hope is not lost for Jones and his Cowboys team. Former Pro Bowl lineman Jaylon Smith was positive for the team with 154 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception in 16 appearances.

Senior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was very productive last season with 60 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Despite his numbers, he didn’t make a serious impression, breaking his collarbone in the first round and injuring his ankle in the final two games of the season.

On the other hand, another veteran, Sean Lee, has yet to decide if he will play in 2021 after the expiration of his $4.5 million contract with the Cowboys, which lasted one year. Like Vander Esch, the 34-year-old has been suspended for a number of games since undergoing hernia surgery at the start of the season.

With all the uncertainty surrounding the linebacker position, the Cowboys could certainly use a player like Christian Kirksey, who is looking to make a comeback after an injury-plagued 2020 season.

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