You Can Always Add to Edge Rusher Room

There is no such thing as having too many good edge rushers, which is why adding to the depth of this position should still be high on the Green Bay Packers' to-do list.

The Green Bay Packers appear to be in at least some sort of a transition period at the edge rusher position this offseason.
 
All signs are currently pointing to Za'Darius Smith playing elsewhere in 2022, and what path the Packers take to lowering Preston Smith's $19.7 million cap hit is still up in the air--although a report from Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network suggests that the two are in talks about an extension.
 
An extension for P. Smith shouldn't come as a surprise. While 2020 was a down season for him, this past year, Smith would finish tied for 10th among all edge rushers in pressures and 16th in PFF's pass-rush productivity metric. He was also a much-improved run defender as well.
 
There may have been a bump or two in the road, but since arriving to Green Bay, Smith has been one of the Packers' more important and productive players during that three-year span.
 
“I think you’re looking at some stats, but, if you really look at Preston, he’s been pretty consistent throughout his career,” Gutekunst said at the Scouting Combine via SI. “He shows up and he’s been a playmaker throughout his career. I know the sack numbers have kind of gone up and down, but … we’d certainly like to keep Preston around.”
 
The combination of Smith and Rashan Gary last season formed one of the most productive edge-rushing duos in football. In addition to Smith's numbers, Gary would finish third in total pressures third in pass-rush productivity--which is an efficiency metric. The end result was a Green Bay Packers defense, along with help from Kenny Clark, that was one of the best in football at getting after the quarterback.
 
So as we turn our attention to needs that the team should address this offseason, as formidable as Smith and Gary are, adding to the edge rusher room should still be high on Brian Gutekunst's to-do list.
 
Edge rusher is a premier position in the NFL and also a heavily rotated one. While we would love to see Gary and Smith on the field for every snap, both played about 68% of the defensive snaps last season when available--meaning Green Bay relied on the other edge rushers on the roster to play about one-third of the defensive snaps each game.
 
Of course, the production from Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai, and La'Darius Hamilton fell off considerably when they were on the field compared to Smith and Gary -- which should be expected to a degree -- but there were also very few impact plays from this trio. 
 
Andy Herman of Packer Report, who grades every play for every Packers player over the course of the season, had both Garvin and Galeai as two of his lower graded defenders in 2021, with Garvin actually finishing last through Week 17 while Galeai was the fifth-lowest. 
 
Now, both players just finished up their second NFL seasons, and as a seventh-round pick and UDFA, we all knew that they would need time to develop their games--which they have. There is certainly a lot to like about Garvin and Galeai and the potential that they possess. 
 
However, that doesn't mean that the Packers shouldn't look to upgrade one of football's most important positions either--there is certainly room for improvement in terms of depth. This is why Green Bay signed Whitney Mercilus in the middle of the season. 
 
Edge rusher is also one of the few positions that we know the Green Bay Packers will target in the first round of the NFL draft--because of its importance. A few names from The Draft Network to keep your eyes on as the pre-draft process unfolds are Jermaine Johnson, David Ojabo, George Karlaftis, Boye Mafe, Logan Hall, Cameron Thomas, and Myjai Sanders.
 
Assuming Preston Smith is still a Packer, which I'm sure we all expect, Green Bay will enter 2022 with one of the best pass-rushing combos in the NFL. But the depth of this unit is where the question marks lie. 
 
The name of the game in football is getting after the quarterback, which is why there is no such thing as having too many good edge rushers. In a draft class that is very deep at this position, the Green Bay Packers should certainly be looking to take advantage of that early on.

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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2 points

Comments (19)

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

March 04, 2022 at 11:12 am

If Z and Preston both leave, I'd expect our 1st Round pick to be an Edge Rusher for certain.

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HankScorpio's picture

March 04, 2022 at 02:25 pm

Trade Rodgers to Philly. Get 3 1st round pick. Draft Edge and WR in the 1st. And a couple more.

That's how I vote. I wish it meant something.

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crayzpackfan's picture

March 04, 2022 at 04:04 pm

I mentioned this earlier. Definitely won’t happen. But sure would make the draft this year absolutely slapped.

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stockholder's picture

March 04, 2022 at 11:49 am

I don't think anybody should leave until their contract runs out. TT went for the guy that dropped. And I could see that being the case here. But with the Excellent forties the WR class put up. I believe Gutey could blow this draft. It will take our first and another 3 to go up this time. And Ojabo would be the guy. Leaving 2nd rd as his WR. @#60 He will not get Adams replacement. And he will also miss a Top 5 DL. So we need another #2 pick! Or he trades down like TT Did. Seems I Just made the case to tag Adams. But if he took a WR with the @28. He then could trade up using his 2nd and third. The choice is two starters or 1 edge rusher.

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ricky's picture

March 04, 2022 at 12:05 pm

Agreed. You can't have enough edge rushers. Or offensive linemen. Or secondary players, or defensive linemen. And of course, backups to the QB and RB, not to mention ST's. And TE's! Let's not forget them! So, the team needs depth at all positions. And needs to stay under the cap. And be ready to sign FA's. Got it.

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BirdDogUni's picture

March 04, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Easy there ricky-bobby...

You forgot to mention you have to do all of this without hurting anyone's feelings... ; P

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

March 04, 2022 at 02:29 pm

😀

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Return_To_Sanity's picture

March 04, 2022 at 01:07 pm

Rodgers for Nick Bosa and Brandon Aiyuk.

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13TimeChamps's picture

March 04, 2022 at 02:40 pm

A 23 year old Aiyuk and 24 year old Bosa for a soon to be 39 year old QB?

I suggest you keep your day job.

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13TimeChamps's picture

March 04, 2022 at 02:41 pm

Double post.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 04, 2022 at 05:17 pm

What were some of Gutekunst’s first moves? He brought in two edge guys and drafted Gary. So it’s safe to say that theGM likes outside pressure.

He’s also spent first round picks on Alexander, Savage and Stokes. He got Amos in FA. So it’s also safe to say he likes coverage.

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Johnblood27's picture

March 05, 2022 at 07:03 am

I like ice cream...

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Jgilmor08's picture

March 04, 2022 at 08:27 pm

I could certainly see both guys back after restructuring. You can’t possibly always believe everything the media touts. They constantly want drama and clickable content. I remember it like it was last off season, one of the smiths would be a cap casualty. This was a forgone conclusion. Also remember Rodgers current deal was intentionally supposed to be a massive albatross of a cap hit. This ended up giving him all the power in negotiations and wouldn’t allow the front office to say something along the lines of ‘you don’t wanna play for us? Fine you can sit this season’. That’s why last seasons negotiated contract helped AR establish control of his own future. No team in the world would take a 45 million dollar cap hit and at least not even kinda benefit from it.

This is the new way of manipulating the cap it just took Green Bay a bit longer to learn that they could just keep kicking the cap hits down the road like every other franchise.

I will add this, I would genuinely love to see the front office do some reassessment on positions that are valuable. I think the linebacker position that the team hasn’t valued for years showed how much it can improve a defense overnight. The same goes for grabbing WR early on. If you look at the past 6 super bowl contenders each team had not one high draft pick at wideout but two and sometimes three like LA. The Packers current make up is 2nd rounder, undrafted FA, 6th rounder, and TE UDFA. It’s just not working. When the pass rush is really clicking there needs to be another receiver that’s like Adams where teams simply CANT double. KC has absolute studs, LA has great receivers, SF has a good stable of players, Cinci has a great group too. If the packers wanna compete ever again they need to be comfortable with challenging their own beliefs and realize the game is always evolving. What worked in early 2000s isn’t cutting it in the league today.

I also wouldn’t be upset if they drafted another Desmond Howard type. A full time returner like the kid from Utah. Just like linebacker it’s time to see the value by looking around.

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BirdDogUni's picture

March 04, 2022 at 10:05 pm

I too am hoping Gutey takes a different tact this year. First, I'm hoping all the bring back AR talk is BS and they're trying to get the best trade package together from various teams. Second, I hope they can find a way to tag-n-trade DA for at least a 2nd round pick.

Ending up with 2 - 1st, 3 - 2nds, and 2 - 3rds - plus our 4th, 5th, and 3 - 7th round picks. (Plus at least a 1st next year.)

I too hope Gutey sees the need to draft ILBer and Speedy WR x 2 (minimum), IDL, OLBer, TE, OL, S, CB...

I will be very interested to see the LBs/OLBers 40 times. Some very good WRs available. Excellent group of Edge guys. Also excellent OL prospects. A few IDL guys. Should be a great draft class, especially if we can get AR/DA traded for some decent capital.

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croatpackfan's picture

March 05, 2022 at 09:25 am

"If you look at the past 6 super bowl contenders each team had not one high draft pick at wideout but two and sometimes three like LA."

Do you know 2 very important facts - 1. Kuper Kapp is 6th round pick, not 1st round pick; 2. few years (I believe 3) till today they were w/o 1st and 2nd round picks, which will be prolonged with last season trade for Staford. So you chose wrong example...

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Jgilmor08's picture

March 05, 2022 at 08:02 pm

Odell Beckham 1st
Van Jefferson 2nd
Cooper Kupp 3rd (not quite the 6th)
Brycen Hopkins 4th

Compared with Green Bay:

Davante Adams 2nd
Allen Lazard UDFA
MVS 6th
Robert Tonyan UDFA

Wanna explain these facts to me again one more time? It’s hard to draft van Jefferson in the 2nd without having a pick in that round that’s for sure.

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13TimeChamps's picture

March 05, 2022 at 09:45 am

The past few years I have believed we needed to seriously upgrade the WR room. I know some, well one actually, on here believe we don't need 'super duper' receivers...that having a WR room full of UDFA's and low draft picks is just fine. While I really like Lazard, but if he is clearly our 2nd best receiver, and I believe he is, that speaks volumes that a serious upgrade is need for that position. The frustrating thing is when we did draft WRs high, we had great success. Adams, Jordy, Cobb, Jennings. I don't understand why we changed that thinking.

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Starrbrite's picture

March 04, 2022 at 09:30 pm

Do it—let’s get one!

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Roadrunner23's picture

March 05, 2022 at 07:39 am

The strength of this draft is edge rusher I expect the Packers to take one in the first round maybe a receiver in the second but no higher than that.

Packers have prioritized positions like edge rusher offensive line cornerback and quarterback in the first round for many years, that’s just what they do.

You can always find receivers and running backs in the middle rounds if you need to, but there is so much speed in this class I expect them to take a receiver high just not in the first.

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