Za’Darius Smith Gets Restructure Instead of Extension

The Packers alter Za'Darius Smith's contract, but they don't tack on more years. 

The Green Bay Packers restructured the contract of outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, freeing up more than $7 million in cap space. The decision helped create the necessary space to re-sign running back Aaron Jones, but there was some speculation that Smith would get an extension rather than a restructure.

Most of it was fabricated from a single tweet. A little over a week ago, Smith tweeted: ‘I want to be a Packer for life.’

Many thought an extension was in the works, but instead, the Packers orchestrated a restructure.

Smith’s cap hit was scheduled to be $22 million in 2021 and nearly $21 million in 2022. According to Field Yates, Smith had $5 million of his roster bonus and $9.76 million of his base salary in 2021 converted into a signing bonus. Therefore, creating $7.38 million in cap space for Green Bay.

Serving as the team’s best outside linebacker, Smith remains under contract through the 2022 season and will continue to be a huge part of the defense. However, a little was taken off the books to allow some leeway this offseason.

According to Over the Cap, Smith’s cap hit this year is now set at nearly $15 million, but it will see a sizable increase in 2022. In the final year of Smith’s contract, his cap hit will be more than $28 million.

In 2022, Smith will once again be a good candidate for an extension. However, you could have made that case this year, but the Packers decided not to tack on more years to Smith’s contract.

Smith had a breakout season in 2019 when he had a career-high 13.5 sacks, 55 tackles, 17 tackles for loss while leading the NFL in pressures. Last season, Smith had another strong year statistically, finishing with 12.5 sacks, 52 tackles, and 12 tackles for loss, but he didn’t have the same impact that he did during his first season in Green Bay. Smith had 14 fewer quarterback hits, 46 fewer pressures, and his quarterback hurries dropped by over half.

There may be no other reason for Smith’s regression other than his 2019 campaign was an insurmountable apogee. Smith could go on to have more years as he did in 2020, and he would remain one of the top edge rushers in the league. However, at some point, the Packers will have to decide on his future with the team.

Smith wants to stay in Green Bay for the remainder of his career, but the team has to maneuver around a fluctuating salary cap while also fielding the best team possible. Therefore, the Packers will likely use next season as further evaluation before agreeing to an extension. Even if they do want to extend Smith, it may not be long-term. When Smith’s current deal expires at the end of the 2022 season, he will be 30 years old.

 

 

 

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

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4 points

Comments (24)

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

March 19, 2021 at 03:22 pm

31 teams so far signed a free agent or made a trade guess what team has done neither .

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Tingham's picture

March 19, 2021 at 03:37 pm

Aaron Jones was a free agent. Kenny Clark and Bak were set to become free agents this year. I know its hard for you to understand but that is what good teams do. You know. Like a team that has gone 14-3 the last two years and has the reining MVP as its QB. Go be a Bear fan because the itch you have to always complain will get scratched there for eternity.

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Lphill's picture

March 19, 2021 at 05:04 pm

You must enjoy participation trophies too ,I like Lombardi's

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Matt Gonzales's picture

March 19, 2021 at 08:04 pm

31 teams drafted FAs. In 2021, at least 17 will not make the playoffs. At least 30 will not win a SB.

Just to put this in perspective. The majority of teams DONT have a successful season, and more often than not, teams that go "all in" on big name talent are the ones that end up looking from the outside in come January and constantly find themselves in search of new HCs and GMs.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

March 19, 2021 at 08:05 pm

Dupe

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13TimeChamps's picture

March 19, 2021 at 08:49 pm

You really like that 'participation trophy' comment, don't you? It's only about the 50th time you've posted it now.

Are you this miserable and negative with the rest of your life too? Seeing as how the Packers cause you so much grief and anguish, I suggest you find another team to follow.

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Big_Mel_75's picture

March 19, 2021 at 05:10 pm

Jones was never a free agent as he was signed before the new year and legal tampering period. I get your point though. But the Packers brass are only concerned with NFC North titles and playoff appearances...

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packer132's picture

March 19, 2021 at 05:39 pm

Good post, as Bak, Clark, and Jones are all huge to keep. Some people will always find something to complain about. Lets see what happens, as Packers need money to sign anyone else and free agency is not over. The draft will be huge this year, and hoping for some good players to add to the current roster.

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cms's picture

March 19, 2021 at 08:07 pm

The thing that bothers me is that they knew they needed money. The moves should have been done by now on our own people. If they are going to extend Adams, then DO IT! He isn't going to get cheaper. Meanwhile, we are likely losing opportunities.

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BELIEVER's picture

March 19, 2021 at 04:53 pm

WoW, your life must suck

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Lphill's picture

March 19, 2021 at 05:07 pm

My life is great except my favourite team wasted the careers of two hall of fame quarterbacks , but golly gee we make the playoffs !

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Leatherhead's picture

March 20, 2021 at 08:28 am

So signing Bakhtiari, Clark, and Jones don’t count?

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CAG123's picture

March 20, 2021 at 05:14 pm

No it doesn’t since they weren’t FAs

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Lphill's picture

March 19, 2021 at 03:23 pm

The Packers

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PatrickGB's picture

March 19, 2021 at 04:39 pm

Good guess.

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Archie's picture

March 19, 2021 at 04:38 pm

Sign Will Fuller and I will be happy.

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Big_Mel_75's picture

March 19, 2021 at 05:11 pm

To late

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frankthefork's picture

March 19, 2021 at 05:42 pm

Nothing lasts forever but change. With Adams, Linsley, Boyle, Williams and now Taylor(deal talks now) all but gone...NFL grants more comp picks to the Packers in 2022. I love comp picks! Hey, Change lasts forever, and change is coming! The Cap will go up in 2022-relax. GPG

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packer132's picture

March 19, 2021 at 06:20 pm

True, but I saw that we don't get a comp pick for Montravius. I think Linsley and WIlliams are a 4th and Boyle a 6th, and probably nothing for Lane Taylor. I was hoping that he would return, though Pack drafted three OL last year and age and injury history are against him. Can't wait for the draft.

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 19, 2021 at 06:31 pm

My bet is that they couldn't agree on numbers for an extension with Z. Down year for the cap this year. Lots of new money just announced this week. They will get something done next off-season.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 19, 2021 at 08:06 pm

Yup, that's what I wrote Wednesday. Tough to figure what to pay Smith for 2023 and 2024, or was it for more years? I think adding three void years to Turner's contract tells fans there was a scramble as time expired to get under the salary cap limit.

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NoNonsense's picture

March 19, 2021 at 06:43 pm

Well every year 31 teams come up empty handed when it comes to Lombardis, so I guess our misery has a lot of company.

I know too well the agony of feeling like they aren't doing enough to get over the hump and actually get to and win a SB.

I keep hoping for a big splash like signing Kenny Golladay, Kyle Fuller if he's a FA, Casey Hayward, trade for Akiem Hicks or possibly sign an aging Geno Atkins or maybe even take a risk on Kawann Short(shoulder injuries 2 years in a row) if the price is right.

Problem is GB doesn't have any cap space, they already had to clear over 20+ million just to get under the cap and cover the Jones contract, not to mention the over $5 million they'll have to create for Tonyan and Sullivan and the rookie pool will cost another $5+ million. So unfortunately that has already eaten a big chunk of future cap space.

Still I think they should be going all in. That means extending Adams and Rodgers to free up a good chunk of change this season and worry about next season and beyond, then.

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Bure9620's picture

March 19, 2021 at 10:04 pm

I do believe if the Packers wanted to convert part of Rodgers contract to SB they would have done it. Gutekunst has not deviated from his plan. Jordan Love is QB 2 and at some point he will be the likely starter. Might be another 2 years.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 20, 2021 at 08:35 am

We are trying to put the best possible team on the field for 2021. If we win the SuperBowl, most of us will be happy. If we don’t, we don’t want to hamstring ourselves for 2022 and 2023. We could make trades, dump salaries, and acquire FAs to put a strong team on the field.

Try to enjoy 2021, and worry less about what might happen after.

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