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Packers expected to be in on Preston and Za’Darius Smith

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Packers expected to be in on Preston and Za’Darius Smith

It's no secret the Packers need to inject some talent into the outside linebacker position this offseason and it sounds like general manager Brian Gutekunst will be in on a pair of edge rushers when free agency kicks off next week. 

In Michael Cohen's notebook coming off the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, he indicates the Packers plan to be in the conversations for both Washington's Preston Smith and Baltimore's Za’Darius Smith.

From Michael:

Preston Smith, a former second-round pick from Mississippi State, is considered the best-available edge rusher in this year’s class. He has never missed a game in his NFL career and has 24½ sacks the last four seasons. He would mesh well with Pettine’s hybrid 3-4 defense, and the Packers are expected to be involved in conversations for his services, which could cost as much as $16 million per year.

Za’Darius Smith is viewed as a less-expensive option. He has 18½ sacks in four years as a rotational player for the Ravens, whose outside linebacking corps was a three-man timeshare with Terrell Suggs and Matt Judon. He enters free agency coming off the best season of his career after leading the Ravens in sacks (8½) and quarterback hits (25) while also finishing second in tackles for loss (10). His floor is believed to be $10 million per year in free agency, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see that figure climb even higher.

Once again, the Packers are expected to be involved in conversations for Za’Darius Smith. One league source described Smith as a “perfect fit” with Pettine’s defense.

This comes on the heels of a report indicating that the Packers plan on spending some significant money on bringing in edge rushers in free agency.

Things should start to get interesting next Monday when the initial negotiating window opens for teams to start talking contract numbers with agents (pretending they didn't already do some of that while they were all in Indy...)

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (62) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

stockholder's picture

Sign them both! Both can go BEAST MODE! Much better then cream puff.

Go Pack in VA's picture

Sounds good to me ...Leave some room to sign one of the FA safeties ...draft OL DL ...RB

carlos's picture

Would be nice. Sign both and get a good LB ‘er for the middle, another DL in the draft and a safety for the defense.

carlos's picture

Better than signing Antonio Brown.

Rak47's picture

I like both Smiths and have been advocating for trying to sign them both for over a month now. But anything over 12 million each is too much to sign both imho. Za'Darius is the better rusher but Preston is the more steady all around player of the two.

jannes bjornson's picture

Still need to sign Breeland.

CAG123's picture

Go for Z-Smith and his teammate CJ Mosley both can be had for about 10 million a season. Mosley can be the impact 3 down LB the Packers need him and Blake would be a great tandem.

jeepingmakooi's picture

Bring in booth!

Swisch's picture

Although there's a lot to be said for signing two or three solid players in free agency at middling salaries, there's also a lot to be said for spending a large chunk of that cap money on a real impact player.
In general, I hope the Packers stick mostly to their previous policy of draft-and-develop, and yet are carefully active in getting select free agents who are a good fit.
This mini-rebuild seems an especially good time for adding free agents.
It seems great to get one of these two edge rushers who is probably a lot more ready to go than a rookie (although we can still draft one or two).
Just let's not forget the offensive line to keep Rodgers going for a few more years, and to boost all of our skill guys on offense.
With an edge rusher added in free agency, maybe we pick an o-lineman earlier in the draft -- in the first round or two.

PeteK's picture

Fully agree that we need a solid rookie lineman. I like Risner bc he can play G or take over for Bulaga when he misses his usual 2-3 games. Signing a free agent OLB might enable us to draft Hockenson which further helps our O line.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

"there's also a lot to be said for spending a large chunk of that cap money on a real impact player."

Ok, sure. Who? Impact players are almost never available in free agency. You have to draft or trade for them. One way would have been last season trading for Mack. This season the impact guys got franchised. It will be the same thing next year, over and over for 5-10 years before a guy like Mack is on the block again.

Swisch's picture

I'm glad to clarify: By impact player I don't mean a pro-bowl guy; but rather a guy who has proven himself in the NFL to a good extent, and is expected to play at a high level for the Packers going forward (better than the solid players).
I don't know the Smith guys, but their profile suggests that they've shown some good results already, and appear poised to take a step or two up as they enter the prime of their careers.
They're not the top-money guys, but more expensive than the solid guys.
To me, that's an example of an impact player -- although it could also include an older veteran who seems to have a lot left in the tank.
The nice thing about the younger guys, the up-and-comers, in about their fifth season, is that they may really surge -- like, to use a comparison with baseball, Christian Yelich did last year for the Brewers.
It seems after three or four years, guys not only may be reaching their physical peak, but also figuring out the nuances of the game in a way that really ups their performance.
The challenge for a GM is to find the promising guys -- before they get too expensive -- who are ready to reach a new level.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Ok, when I hear "impact player" I think perennial All Pro. Impact OLBs to me are Mack, Ford and Miller. Apparently Ford is available for a 2nd rounder.

Swisch's picture

Your definition for impact player may be better, Jeremy.
Let's just hope the Packers start finding impact players before they become impact players -- whether through free agency or the draft.
That doesn't mean we couldn't consider trading for a guy like Ford who is already an impact player.

The TKstinator's picture

But don’t forget, all the GM’s are looking for thses guys, which drives up the prices.

Since '61's picture

Send for the Smith Brothers!!!

Chuck Perry and let CM3 walk.
Sign these guys and move on.
Thanks, Since ‘61

Old School's picture

So, we'll pay Perry $11 million to NOT play for us so that we can save $3.4 million in cap so we can pay some other guy $11 million to play for us and give us maybe 8 sacks and 25 hits in 640 passes.

I'm sorry. I think this is crazy.

Dzehren's picture

Old School- who are you pegging GB to pick @12, 30 & 44? Or what mix are you thinking? DL, OL, DE or ILB?

Old School's picture

Dzehren….Thanks for asking!!

I'm in favor of trading down and getting more picks. Some people hate that idea but the percentages behind it are sound. Hypothetically, we could move down from #12 to #21 and pick up a4#55ish second round pick.

We could also do like we did when we traded down from #30 to #37 and got Jordy Nelson AND an extra pick.

Those two simple trade downs gives us a 1st round pick at #21, three second round picks around #39, #44, and #55, our third round pick at #76 or whatever, and then three picks in the first 16 on the last day. And of course, whatever we do with the 5th, 6th, and 7th rounders.

I'm not naming specific players yet because I want to wait until closer to the draft, but we could conceivably get a guy like Hock or Fant, for example, then spend #39 and #44 on defensive gIuys, then #55 and #76 on offensive guys......and then we'd still have three choices to open the last day.

On offense, we need TEs to run double TE sets and I think we'll clearly take one of the Top 3, either at #21 or #33. We're also going to be looking for a tackle at #55.

Hypothetically, using Rang's board over at CBS, this could have our first four picks looking like this:

#21...Hock or Fant
#39..Dexter Lawrence or Mack Wilson
#44.....Jaylon Ferguson or Taylor Rapp
#55.....Cody Ford or Andy Isabella!!!

Or you could turn it around and pick defense first, and get some major DL stud in the first round, then two picks on offense, then back to defense. Either way you have a balanced approach and you get to add two good players on both sides of the ball.

We need an OT. If you're gonna play double TE sets, you need TEs. And we can use help at every unit on defense.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Paying $16M AAV for Preston Smith sounds like a massive overpay to me. Crazy!

I get a laugh because fans weren't too thrilled with Perry's 7 sacks in 2017 that came while he was playing for $11M AAV and now can't wait to pay a lot more for a guy like P. Smith whose career high is 8 sacks! True, Preston Smith has more QB hits than Perry, but it isn't a night and day difference.

That number would make me scurry over to ZaDarius Smith, or better yet, Barrett and Barr, maybe even Houston or Dee Ford.

Maybe I am just having sticker shock: $16M never occurred to me for P. Smith. If that's the price, don't even think about not drafting an OLB at #12.

[Darn, here I was responding to you Old friend and essentially agreeing, and then I end it with the line I know you're going to disagree with. Oh well, I just won't mention what I'd do with Perry to prevent further disharmony!]

Old School's picture

TGR.....you know in your heart that spending the #12 pick in the draft for a guy who'll probably play about 11 games/year and get a half a sack for every game he plays isn't right.

Look.....it's ESPN. We value the highlight play and lot more than we do the nuts and bolts of grinding it out and when that rangy DE comes around the edge and hits the QB....that's a highlight play. I remember watching Deacon Jones and Carl Eller and Willie Davis doing that in the highlight reel in my mind.

But to me, it starts to come down to math. 70 defensive snaps in a game. Let's say it's a 40/30 mix and they throw against you 40 times.

Now, often these edge guys are valued for the pass rush, not the run defense. Perry is a good run defender, yet is reviled. So this new guy is probably going to be the weakest link in the Front 7 run defense.

But he has his chance during those 40 passes. Once you deduct for the quick bubble screens or hooks that no pass rush could stop, you've probably got less than 20 plays in that game where that OLB can "make a play". And if he even touches the QB twice and gets a half a sack, he's considered worth $15 million?

Again: Edge pass rushers are overvalued. Put monsters on your defensive line and put guys who can cover and tackle in the secondary and you'll do just fine.

Again: We finished 7th in sacks last year without much of a contribution from Perry or Wilkinson and a secondary that couldn't put five guys who could cover on the field.

If we improve the coverage, and add one more horse to replace Matthews (doesn't have to be at #12) we'll be a much better defense.

Old School's picture

TGR.....you know in your heart that spending the #12 pick in the draft for a guy who'll probably play about 11 games/year and get a half a sack for every game he plays isn't right.

Look.....it's ESPN. We value the highlight play and lot more than we do the nuts and bolts of grinding it out and when that rangy DE comes around the edge and hits the QB....that's a highlight play. I remember watching Deacon Jones and Carl Eller and Willie Davis doing that in the highlight reel in my mind.

But to me, it starts to come down to math. 70 defensive snaps in a game. Let's say it's a 40/30 mix and they throw against you 40 times.

Now, often these edge guys are valued for the pass rush, not the run defense. Perry is a good run defender, yet is reviled. So this new guy is probably going to be the weakest link in the Front 7 run defense.

But he has his chance during those 40 passes. Once you deduct for the quick bubble screens or hooks that no pass rush could stop, you've probably got less than 20 plays in that game where that OLB can "make a play". And if he even touches the QB twice and gets a half a sack, he's considered worth $15 million?

Again: Edge pass rushers are overvalued. Put monsters on your defensive line and put guys who can cover and tackle in the secondary and you'll do just fine.

Again: We finished 7th in sacks last year without much of a contribution from Perry or Wilkinson and a secondary that couldn't put five guys who could cover on the field.

If we improve the coverage, and add one more horse to replace Matthews (doesn't have to be at #12) we'll be a much better defense.

Coldworld's picture

You posted essentially the same view before. It was wrong thinking then and remains just as flawed now.

Old School's picture

Yeah. I love your explanation of how it's flawed.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Well, given Perry's probable availablity; they'll be paying Perry ~11 mil to NOT play whether he's on the team or not. At least if he's gone now they don't need to pay him again in 2020.

So even if you disagree, which is fine, it is a very understandable situation.

Old School's picture

They don't need to pay him in 2020. He's a free agent after the season. He's not under contract any more then.

Perry has been available for 72% of the snaps on defense over his 7 year career. That's actually above average for the position.

Coldworld's picture

Old school is just neck deep in an old rut on Perry. We don’t win by letting Perry go this year by any rational analysis. It doesn’t matter that, with hindsight, we might have made other choices.

Old School's picture

Absolutely!! We can be rid of Perry next year. There's no point to getting rid of him this year when we've already paid him $11 million for the season. Might as well pay him the extra 3.4 and have him play for us.

In hindsight, maybe different choices. Yes.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Nice try. He's a FA in 2022.

overthecap.com player/nick-perry/1129/

Old School's picture

There's an out in his deal after 2019. That's how we wrote the deal.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Got a linknto that? The google tells me nothing about an out.

Old School's picture

Not a link, but if you go to spotrac.com and type in Perry's name, it'll give you all the details.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I think you two are defining "out" differently. Sportrac always shows the out defined as the first time a team can cut a player and gain cap space. There is still a dead money hit, usually. Sometimes it is an "easy out" and other times it is still pretty painful.

jannes bjornson's picture

Use a post June 1st designation on him.

CAG123's picture

I'm really not for them signing Preston Smith his numbers playing along side a stud like Kerrigan are very inconsistent but they've pretty much been paying Perry 11 million to not produce and not be available anyway. I'd rather them go after Za'Darius at least he has the protection of not being a starter Preston has put this numbers up as a 3 year starter. No thanks

LambeauPlain's picture

That would be 7 more sacks and 23 more QB hits than paying Perry $11 M would provide!

Perry collects most of his $millions in the tub, not on the field. And when he does wear his cleats he is invisible.

RCPackerFan's picture

I wouldn't be surprised at all if they went after Za’Darius Smith.

One of the reasons being Milt Hendrickson. Formerly with the Ravens front office he now is with GB's. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they went after a couple of Ravens players.

Coldworld's picture

I believe they need two FA OLBs and two safeties, but at $16 million I don’t think there is a player available that I would take. Smith is the probably the level we need to be looking at, enabling us to look at an adfitional OLB and safeties and OG.

Dzehren's picture

Free agents to sign:
Za’Darius Smith 6M
Breeland 6M
Landon Collins 8M
Geronimo 2M
Wilkerson 1M
Minimum contract guys
OL Lucas Patrick
OL Justin McCray
OL Adam Pankey
OLB Reggie Gilbert
TE Robert Tonyan
WR Jake Kumerow
DE Fadol Brown
S IBRAHEIM CAMPBELL

PeteK's picture

Gents( who had a poor D) didn't sign Collins for a reason.

Dzehren's picture

I was surprised G-Men let Collins walk too after 3 pro bowls. I like Adrian Amos from the Bears as well for 5M.

Old School's picture

There's a problem with paying Breeland $6 million.

Our starters are Alexander and King. King has had availability issues. We also have Jackson. And when we fix the situation at safety, we'll have Tramon back at CB. So I'm kind of questioning that. I will say that if we don't sign a safety, then we might as well resign Breeland. If we could get Breeland and Amos both for $11 million or so, I'd take it.

I actually expect we'll sign Wilkinson and Campbell. Ryan will try to win a place on the defense on a one year make-good deal. Between FA and the draft we could add another 4 or 5 pretty good players to the group.

PeteK's picture

I'm souring on Wilkerson, 5 tkls in 2 1/2 games. Let the youth in the form of Lancaster, Adams, and Brown develop. Breeland one year 6 mill show me contract.

Old School's picture

Wilkinson has been a very good player in this league with excellent durability until he got hurt last year.

PeteK's picture

Very good, Jet fans would disagree.

jannes bjornson's picture

You can get a five technique in the draft.

Old School's picture

Yeah, you can. But probably not as good as Wilkinson. Prior to last year, he rarely missed games and gets quite a few sacks, hits, and batted passes.

I love big defensive ends and would rather have one than an edge rusher. And we could get one in the draft. Or we could sign Wilkinson to a "make good" contract and use the draft pick elsewhere.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

The drafniks have told me that 5 techs are in short supply this year. It is loaded with 3 technique guys, iDL types.

mrtundra's picture

Reading more and more that Collins cannot cover man to man very well.

Coldworld's picture

Wilkerson on a prove it deal works for me. I don’t think Williams will start at corner and with the amount we use multiple CBs I think Breeland can contribute at that sort of price.

Collins looks on the basis of last season like a potential mistake. Is that the team/scheme or declining abilities?

jannes bjornson's picture

Breeland should be resigned. CB needs to be at least five deep. Tramon will be a coin flip as he has lost a step and is reluctant to hit. He can provide insurance at the safety and CB spots so maybe he stays as long as he's not on punt return unit.

Dzehren's picture

Maybe picking up Adrian Amos instead of Collins is the better option.

TheBigCheeze's picture

neither one is worth that much money......hard pass.....try to get Collins on the cheap.....

CAG123's picture

Collins is too much of a throwback strong safety for this NFL he's pretty much an inbox safety and nothing else they'd be better off getting a ILB like Mosley who does offer pretty good coverage ability.

Coldworld's picture

Based on a straight choice between the two, I agree. We need cover safeties not more box candidates.

Old School's picture

I don't disagree, but you realize that our best box safety candidate is Kentrell Brice, who most people here hate. ?

LambeauPlain's picture

Josh Jones has put Brice in the rearview mirror.

He’s gone. Guy can’t cover and he wiffs on every other attempted tackle.

He’s just a guy.

HoLeCrap's picture

I hope for the sake of the loving packer fans, they dont play the same game they did with Ted t. talking to a lot of high priced people but when push comes to shove they back away when the price is revealed that these people want to be paid in money not the glory of being a packer.
I'm not convinced cheap ball isnt still the modis operandum.
All I know is the Pack went to a three four scheme to avoid paying high priced DE's and want linebackers as pass rushers to save money.

The TKstinator's picture

Um, no.
Ask Rodgers, Bakhtiari, Adams, Cobb, Perry, and CM3 if the Packers play “cheap ball”.
During your period of discovery with Clay and Nick, also ask them if LB’s are so much cheaper than DE’s.
One of two things will then occur:
Your mind will be blown, or you’ll sink deeper into denial.

porupack's picture

As some of us have often stated, why spend $16m on a FA OLB, then draft a safety in early rounds? Better sign a FA safety for half that, and draft OLB in early rounds.
Sign FA Guard. Draft TE.

I'll post the same thing next week too.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

I dont know about the rest of you but after reading Old School I have become cross-eyed!

LambeauPlain's picture

Za’Darius Smith, Collins and keeping Breeland would make Gutey’s draft wide open.

He could draft White, the BAP O lineman on his board, go after Hock....even the BAP D lineman.

The next two months could make the Pack the favorite in the North again.

Another wildcard upside is new OLB coach Smith replacing the dud Winston Moss. Smith did a wonderful job in KC with Ford and Houston....I think he will do wonders with Fackrell and even Gilbert.

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