Packers Expect Preston Smith Back in 2021

According to Brian Gutekunst, Preston Smith will be back with the Packers in 2021.

General Manager Brian Gutekunst announced Tuesday that he expects edge rusher Preston Smith back in 2021. Due to the Green Bay Packers' salary cap situation, Smith was considered a potential cap casualty this offseason based on his performance last season, however, Gutekunst appears to think otherwise.

“Preston has played a lot of really good football for us, and certainly we’d like to have him back next year. He’s under contract, so we certainly expect him to be back,” Gutekunst said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

The news was deflating for many as it came right after JJ Watt’s announcement of joining the Arizona Cardinals. Had fans had the choice to choose between signing Watt and cutting Smith, the answer would have been Watt in a heartbeat.

Gutekunst said what he said about Smith’s status, but there are no guarantees.  Smith may not be a member of this team in 2021.

Obviously, no GM is going to outright tell the media that they are going to cut a guy. That would diminish all of the team’s leverage for a potential trade. However, Smith’s trade value is basically nil after how much he struggled in 2020. There’s also the fact that he carries a cap hit of $16 million in 2021. No team in the NFL will be willing to want to take that on.

However, even though a trade is likely out of the question, maybe Smith is released at some point. The Packers have already parted ways with Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner to alleviate some cap stress. Smith was not a part of the initial wave of cut downs, but he isn’t out of the woods yet. If Green Bay can’t restructure Smith, perhaps they move on from him at a later date.

The hardest part to apprehend is the Packers keeping Smith on the same contract in 2021 after what transpired the last season.

Smith had a breakout year in 2020, totaling 12.0 sacks and 55 quarterback pressures. Last year, Smith’s sack total dropped to 4.0, and his pressures fell to 26, according to Pro Football Focus.

The team may feel Smith can get back to his 2019 form and play closer to what his contract demands from him. Smith is reunited with former defensive coordinator Joe Barry. The two spent time together during Smith’s first two seasons in Washington.

According to Gutekunst, the Packers signed Smith for his impact on the game and not just sacks. Smith’s career with the Football Team was littered with average sack numbers. His career-high before joining Green Bay was 8.0. Smith does have some versatility when it comes to dropping into coverage and defending the run, but he did neither of those at a high level in 2020.

When it comes time to send out paychecks, it will be an extremely tough pill to swallow if Green Bay decides to pay Smith top 10 money this year only to see more of the same. They are basically hand-cuffed this free agency, and cutting or restructuring Smith would allow at least some wiggle room to try and add an additional player or two.

There’s also the fact that former first-rounder Rashan Gary is waiting behind Smith. You could make the case that Gary had a larger impact than Smith in 2020 despite playing just 44 percent of the defensive snaps. Somehow Gary managed to have one more sack than Smith in 358 fewer snaps.

The Packers could very well restructure Smith’s deal between now and the start of the season. There’s also the possibility that they bite the bullet and pay him what he’s due while being content with his effect on defense.

 

 

 

Brandon Carwile is a Packers writer who also enjoys watching and breaking down film. Follow him on Twitter @PackerScribe.

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3 points

Comments (34)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Hematite's picture

March 05, 2021 at 03:34 pm

I smell a smokescreen!
Either he will play for a lot less money or he's gone.

4 points
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Coldworld's picture

March 06, 2021 at 09:28 am

He is still under contract. No GM is going to say anything else till such time as the final decision is made.

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Savage57's picture

March 06, 2021 at 09:42 am

I liked the guy when he was brought in. Big, powerful, decent quickness.

As his production fell last season, I started to focus on him on plays that went away from him. He looked like he was at walk-throughs in shells.

Major rework of his deal, or buh-bye.

2 points
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CoachJV's picture

March 05, 2021 at 03:52 pm

I believe in Preston. I think he was used a lot differently in 2020 than in 2019. I think that was due to the loss of Fackrell, forcing P into more coverage situations.

5 points
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Lphill's picture

March 05, 2021 at 04:21 pm

He dropped into coverage more times in 2019 that was posted here.

8 points
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Fabio's picture

March 05, 2021 at 04:08 pm

"They are basically handcuffed to this free agency, and cutting or restructuring Smith would allow at least some leeway to try and add an extra player or two.
There is also the fact that former first player Rashan Gary is waiting behind Smith. It could be argued that Gary made a bigger impact than Smith in 2020 despite playing only 44% of defensive shots. Somehow Gary managed to get a lot more than Smith in 358 fewer shots. "

In these words is the whole summary of why we have to let Preston go. We have to hope that Gary will make the definitive leap in development and use the money saved for CB (I hope in Gilmoure) or some help for Clark.
Greetings from Italy
GPG

4 points
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Gman1976's picture

March 05, 2021 at 04:22 pm

The stats on Smith & Gary show one good reason why we needed a new Defensive Coordinator. We must have the best players on the field.

4 points
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Gman1976's picture

March 05, 2021 at 04:20 pm

I love Preston Smith and hope he stays, but not at the current price tag (It is not a sound financial decision).

4 points
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4thandinches's picture

March 05, 2021 at 11:34 pm

Agreed. You need at least 3 quality olbs in a 3-4 defense. Cutting 91 would just open another hole. And we've got enough already. We're paying him 8 mil regardless, right? I'd pay him another 4 to stay, so 12 total. Is that a 4 mil pay cut for 2021 then?

-1 points
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Befuddled's picture

March 06, 2021 at 07:41 am

When the Packer won the Super bowl they had Clay Matthews and???

0 points
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4thandinches's picture

March 06, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Raji, Cullen Jenkins, and Ryan Pickett. So, a lot more talent on the DL...

1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

March 06, 2021 at 07:46 am

Move P.Smith and try to secure Zaven Collins in the first round. Save cash and secure a better player for five years. If Gutedkunst goes through the motions this off-season, expect to miss another SB.

1 points
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Lphill's picture

March 05, 2021 at 04:22 pm

Should have kept Kirksey when he was moved to his natural position he was very effective.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 06, 2021 at 11:47 am

He was Over-paid.

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Guam's picture

March 05, 2021 at 04:51 pm

I doubt Preston Smith wants to be cut into the crazy cap environment that is happening this Spring. While a good player, he would not have much leverage given last season and the limited number of teams that could afford him. Perhaps he and the Packers are reworking his contract to provide some 2021 cap relief for the team while giving him some security over the next couple of years.

5 points
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Leatherhead's picture

March 05, 2021 at 04:53 pm

No. Let’s blow holes in the lineup to save money that we can spend on a WR.

Smith, Smith, and Gary is one of the better group of edge rushers in the league. We should try to hang onto that for another season.

1 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 05, 2021 at 05:04 pm

I am having a hard time believing Preston will be back in 2021 unless he takes a large pay cut, something in the area of $5M to $8M. I suppose some could be a pay cut and some could be money shifted into 2022 that Preston has the chance to recoup. The thing is, his cap number for 2022 is $16.5M, so adding more to that seems difficult to envision, as is adding a year or two to his current deal.

7 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

March 05, 2021 at 05:32 pm

"The thing is, his cap number for 2022 is $16.5M, so adding more to that seems difficult to envision, as is adding a year or two to his current deal."

Paint meet Corner.
Corner meet Paint.

3 points
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Nate-1980's picture

March 05, 2021 at 05:33 pm

I agree on everything in this post..I’d say al least an 8 mil pay cut, I’d try for more.. He had 4 sacks, you can get that for 5 mil a year, or maybe even less especially this off season..Theu definitely should not extend him..

3 points
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Leatherhead's picture

March 05, 2021 at 05:34 pm

So Preston Smith should take a pay cut because we don’t like the contract we signed him to less than two years ago? And no team in the league will offer him more than we think he’s worth?

Am I getting this right?

1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

March 06, 2021 at 07:48 am

Pay for Performance.

2 points
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Guam's picture

March 06, 2021 at 08:17 am

LH: Some team may offer him more than the Packers would like to pay, but in this crazy cap year there also may be no team that will. It is not business as usual this year. Preston underperformed his contract last year. I could see the Packers offering a choice between getting cut or taking a pay cut with incentives targets to make some or most of it back.

Given Gute's optimism about retaining Preston and the cap issues the Packers have, this type of solution may be in the cards. This is the business side of football and underperforming your contract leaves you open to these types of contract renegotiations. This happens in other walks of life besides football too.

1 points
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egbertsouse's picture

March 05, 2021 at 05:08 pm

I guess the Gute didn’t learn anything from the Jimmy Graham debacle. Gute, admit your mistake and move on. You can’t waste money on overpaid under achievers.

6 points
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egbertsouse's picture

March 05, 2021 at 05:08 pm

I guess the Gute didn’t learn anything from the Jimmy Graham debacle. Gute, admit your mistake and move on. You can’t waste money on overpaid under achievers.

1 points
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jeremyjjbrown's picture

March 05, 2021 at 05:10 pm

Hopefully he'll be in coverage a lot less. It's good if it's once and a while as a change up, but Pettine did it too much.

2 points
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MarkinMadison's picture

March 05, 2021 at 06:53 pm

I've got mixed feelings on this. Both of the Smith Bros. were down big time this year. What happened? Why? If the Packers can afford to keep him, what do they see that we don't?

2 points
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JohnnyLogan's picture

March 05, 2021 at 07:14 pm

There are a lot of really good players on the free agency market. It would seem we'd be able to get a bigger difference-maker than P. Smith for $12 million a year. An inside DL, a CB... a WR.

5 points
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canadapacker's picture

March 05, 2021 at 07:32 pm

If we keep him as has been indicated - then we need to use him a lot better. He also needs to perform better and come into camp in better shape. He is better suited to more of a down lineman and rushing OLB than any type of cover guy. He was out of his depth when trying to cover and needed to have a much better knowledge of his role. There was times where he made plays by just being there and let guys run into him. Even his TD fumble return for a TD was because he was there and not running aimlessly around.

3 points
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stockholder's picture

March 05, 2021 at 09:25 pm

I'm glad he's coming back. Barry will make good use of him.

-1 points
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Droski's picture

March 06, 2021 at 12:28 am

I like Preston even after his down year, he still found ways to be effective especially down the stretch by deflecting passes/disrupting passing lanes and occasionally getting to the qb. Sacks aren't everything but still his pressure rate wasn't nearly as consistent as 2019, he got locked up one on one far too often. He didn't help much as a run defender either, in fact some teams regularly tested his side and ran it right at him and more often than not he couldn't set his edge or he just got washed out. I think he can bounce back but if he's gonna stay he needs to be willing to take a big cut.

2 points
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PatrickGB's picture

March 06, 2021 at 11:14 am

If the team had a MLB who could cover better then we would not be having this discussion. Making OLB’s cover is asking a lot. Also if the team had better DE’s it would free him up to concentrate on pass pressure. I think that he stays on the team and improves if these other issues get addressed.

1 points
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flackcatcher's picture

March 06, 2021 at 05:02 pm

Most of this is small beer. Gutekunst will keep P. Smith if he can. The Packers will replace their losses with little to no drop off this year with what they have already on the roster. Still, Gutekunst wants to keep his core/starters if he can even in this down Cap year. The question is how far do you go in doing that. But next year after this season is when the Cap crunch will hit the Packers. It will either force a reload or a soft rebuilt if the team is lucky. If not, there could be a full scale rebuild. (Of course much depends on the TV contracts and how the Cap number plays out this year) Watching how and who the Packers draft, will take on extra meaning. Enjoy the ride.

0 points
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PF4L's picture

March 07, 2021 at 05:38 pm

Just keep him.

Why wouldn't you want your 12th pick of the first round sitting on the bench....for a 3rd straight season?
He does have company, another first round pick in Jordan Love.

Stick with your mistake Gute, which then forces another mistake.
*********************************
In related.....

Preston Smith (who brought Z. Smith along for support i guess) went to LaFleur last off season, to ask him for a request on how he is used.

Does anyone here know what that request was?

0 points
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CoachDino's picture

March 08, 2021 at 05:37 pm

It's a silly narrative the entire Packer Media has taken off with to generate a few articles and a small controversy/aggravation.

I know these writers/bloggers aren't so naive to think that just because the coach/GM didn't say they are going to cut him but gave the usually coach speech response that it means as the headline reads "Packers Expect Preston Smith Back in 2021" Yes, its a direct quote I get it. The expectation is writers/bloggers know more not less than readers.

Preston is most likely not coming back at the same salary, why give any other impression, especially through a headline. To me it just a credibility issue.

1 points
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