For some, he was a coveted free agent. For others, they have no idea who he is, but former Baltimore Ravens’ edge rusher, Za’Darius Smith, is one of the newest Green Bay Packers. In a day that has been uncharacteristic for the Packers over the years, they have shelled out approximately $45 million dollars for this season alone by signing four players. Za’Darius Smith was the first man to sign which was a shock for may Packer fans to wake up to.
Smith is a former fourth round draft pick out of the University of Kentucky. He has played four seasons for the Ravens where he has played outside linebacker and defensive end. He has even shown ability to reduce down to the interior and play in a tackle spot. Smith had a hot start to his career as he tallied 5.5 sacks in more of a defensive end spot without starting any of the 15 games he appeared in. His numbers dropped the next two years as he only recorded 4.5 sacks over that span. Part of the reason could have been his shift down to defensive tackle along with his outside backer and defensive end duties. His numbers shot up this past season as he recorded 8.5 sacks which led the Ravens who totaled the most sacks as a team in 2018.
This signing along with the signing of Preston Smith created a situation where the Packers had no option but to cut ties with Nick Perry who was owed $11 million dollars. Clay Matthews’ situation is still up in the air as he met with Russ Ball yesterday to discuss a return to Green Bay. With the Smith boys coming to town, indications point to Matthews not returning, however, he has moved inside for the Packers in the past and could contribute if he would be willing. Another option would be to keep him as a purely third down pass rusher, but the question is whether or not he is better than either Smith or Kyler Fackrell.
The Packers think very highly of Smith as they reportedly agreed (nothing is official until the new league year starts) to terms on a four year, $66 million dollar contract with $34.5 million guaranteed. This is interesting as he has only started 16 of the 58 games he has played. This is not as important based on how players rotate in today’s game, but one would think he would need to be an every down player if he will be receiving an average of $16 million dollars per season. Smith is also coming off of an offseason sports hernia surgery which is a red flag.
All in all, the Packers said they were in the market for an edge rusher and they fulfilled what was said. Smith’s breakout year is great, but it is important that he shows growth on top of his solid numbers. If he is able to build on his successes, the Packers will be on the right path to return to their winning ways. There are personnel decisions that need to be made with Matthews and Fackrell, but the Packers have put themselves in a good spot in this year’s upcoming draft.