The Green Bay Packers need an edge rusher or two, and they’re set to add Za’Darius Smith in a move to fortify the pass rush.
The Green Bay Packers tied for the eighth-most sacks in the NFL last year (44), led by a breakout season from Kyler Fackrell (10.5 sacks). With Clay Matthews set to depart in free agency and a parting of ways with Nick Perry looming, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has reported the Packers are expected to sign outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith.
Smith was a fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2015, and did little over his first three seasons. Last season was a breakout campaign for him though, with 8.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss as Pro Football Focus credited him with 61 quarterback pressures and a top-15 pass rushing grade among edge defenders.
The length of Smith’s deal with Green Bay is not known as of this time, but it’s probably not a short-term one.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports pointed to it coming in at more $16 million per year though, and too rich for Baltimore to get near matching.
With his initial report, Rapoport also suggested the Packers tried to trade for Smith.
Elsewhere, reviews are positive as Green Bay moved to address a need.
Smith is bigger than your average edge rusher, at 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds, which will allow Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to move him inside on obvious passing downs. As a Rex Ryan disciple, Pettine will surely value that versatility and see Smith as a core chess piece in a reshaping of Green Bay’s defense.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has promised a mode of aggressiveness in free agency, and for the second straight offseason he’s on track to deliver. Smith will have to prove last year was a sustainable breakthrough, and not just a contract drive, but the Packers are embracing that risk with a significant bet he’s just entering his prime.