It is entirely possible that Za’Darius Smith is no longer a member of the Green Bay Packers after this season.
The Green Bay Packers were in desperate need of some pass-rushing help in the 2019 league year, and they addressed it in a huge way by signing former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Za’Darius Smith to a four-year contract. As it turns out, the pass rusher may not remain with the team for the full duration of his deal.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Packers restructured Smith’s contract for the second time this year, and he is actually in a position where the team could choose to cut the pass rusher next year. Here is Florio’s full quote explaining the situation:
"The March restructuring, which the Packers had the contractual right to exercise, pushed Smith’s cap number north of $28 million. Since 2022 will be the last year of his contract and given that his $14.5 million salary for 2022 isn’t guaranteed, the decision to convert so much salary to signing bonus virtually guarantees that Smith will be cut after the 2021 season. While he wasn’t happy with the cash flow (as confirmed by the fact that the Packers changed his contract to improved), he’s still not happy with the fact that he has been made into a lame duck, with no security for 2022.That’s the fundamental problem. The Packers, by kicking the can in 2021, set the stage for Smith to be kicked out of Green Bay in 2022."
Packers: Za’Darius Smith’s second contract restructure could allow him to be cut next year
Smith’s contract was restructured back in March, where the $14.76 million of his base salary for the upcoming season became a signing bonus. He would earn $5 million of it by Week 1 and the remaining amount of the signing bonus with his base salary in equal installments, per Florio. But with the second contract restructure in July, the pass rusher received $10 million of the $14.76 million in the span of 10 days, and he would receive remaining $4.76 million throughout the 2021 season.
And when you read the Florio quote above, Smith is now in a position where he could get cut by the team next year.
Smith contributed immediately to the Packers in his very first season, as he tallied 55 tackles, 37 quarterback hits and 13.5 sacks through 16 regular-season games. That helped him clinch his first Pro Bowl nomination. Smith put up similar numbers in the 2020 campaign, as he recorded 52 combined tackles, 23 quarterback hits, 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
The linebacker is currently sidelined with a back injury, which head coach Matt LaFleur says “could potentially” cause him to miss their season opener against the New Orleans Saints.
The Smith contract situation will be one to keep an eye on once the 2021 season reaches its conclusion.