The Green Bay Packers came into the 2019 season with many questions. Aaron Rodgers had a down year in 2018, a season in which the Packers finished 6-9-1. Matt LaFleur was entering his first season as head coach, and many did not believe he would get a long with Rodgers. One bright spot entering the 2019 season, though, was the plethora of free agent signings GM Brian Gutekunst made. Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos have been invaluable contributors to the Packers’ defense over the past three season. Unfortunately, with the Packers facing tough salary cap decisions this offseason, it appears that Za’Darius Smith will not be returning to the team. As of Friday night, he had deleted all posts and pictures of himself as a Green Bay Packers player.
Guys Z basically already said goodbye on Insta, has nothing Packers related anywhere on social, and literally the easiest decision Brian Gutekunst has on his plate this entire offseason is moving on from Z based on contract. I’m sorry, but… it’s over.
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) February 18, 2022
Za’Darius Smith as a Packers Edge Rusher
Unfortunately for Za’Darius Smith and the Green Bay Packers, Smith was limited to just one game in the 2021 season. A lingering back injury that required surgery kept him out of the final 16 games of the season. Prior to that, it forced him to miss most of training camp. He was able to return in time for the Packers playoff loss to the 49ers in which he recorded a single sack.
In 2019 and 2020, however, Za’Darius Smith was one of the best edge rushers in the entire NFL. In four seasons with Baltimore, Smith logged 18.5 career sacks. He never had more than 8.5 in a season. In 2019, Smith had 13.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl. He followed that season up with 12.5 sacks in 2020. Additionally, he forced four fumbles that season, doubling his career total to that point. He was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl and was Second Team All Pro.
Why the Packers Should Cut Za’Darius Smith
The Green Bay Packers are already $50 million over the salary cap for 2022. Za’Darius Smith carries a cap hit of over $27 million in 2022. With the Packers planning on giving Aaron Rodgers a massive contract extension and franchise tagging Davante Adams, the team simply cannot afford Smith. By cutting him, the Packers save $15 million. They still will have about $12 million on the books for Za’Darius Smith as a dead cap hit. Obviously, the team needs to do a lot more than cut Smith in order to get under the cap, but $15 million is a huge chunk of the number they need to shed. It is an unfortunate, but necessary, move for the organization.
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