Za’Darius Smith looking forward to revenge game against Packers

Za'Darius Smith, Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Za'Darius Smith, Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The Packers released a two-time Pro Bowl defender this offseason. But Green Bay’s loss could be the Minnesota Vikings’ gain in a very big way.

One of the rare times over the last decade or so that the Green Bay Packers invested heavily in free agency came three years ago. During the 2019 offseason, general manager Brian Gutekunst signed four players to impressive contracts (via Spotrac).

There was versatile offensive lineman Billy Turner, who left the Denver Broncos and inked a four-year $28 million deal with the Pack. There was former Chicago Bears’ safety Adrian Amos, who signed a four-year contract for $36 million.

Then there were the Smiths, a pair of outside linebackers who could both get after opposing quarterbacks. Preston Smith left Washington for “Titletown” to the tune of four years and $52 million. And Za’Darius Smith departed Baltimore for Green Bay for a lofty four-year, $66 million deal.

They all proved to be wise investments for a team that would win three straight NFC North titles under first-time NFL head coach Matt LaFleur. Turner has been a steady starter along the offensive line. Amos has picked off two passes in each of his three seasons with the team.

Preston Smith has played in all but one game for Green Bay the past three years (including playoffs). He has 25 regular-season sacks and two more in the postseason.

As for Za’Darius Smith, his tenure with the Packers got off to an amazing start. He combined for 26.0 sacks his first two years with the franchise and earned Pro Bowl honors each season. But a back injury hampered him during this past summer.

While he played in Week 1 vs. the Saints, that was his lone regular-season appearance in 2021. He returned to play in the divisional playoffs vs. the 49ers and had one of the four sacks of Jimmy Garoppolo.

But the next time he plays at Lambeau Field, he will be a member of the Purple Gang. The Packers released him this offseason and the rival Minnesota Vikings signed him to a three-year, $42 million deal. So will it be “weird” for the one-time Baltimore Ravens’ pass rusher to face a recent employer?

“It’s not weird,” explained Smith recently (via’s Mark Inabinett). “It’s pretty cool because we can get a chance to play them twice a year. It’s going to be good to see them guys again when I get a chance to meet them on the field.” The Vikings have a new head coach in Kevin O’Connell and a new defensive coordinator in Ed Donatell.

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This isn’t Brett Favre as a member of the Vikings returning to face his old club. But revenge always makes for an intriguing game and Smith will certainly have his sights set on former teammate Aaron Rodgers.