GREEN BAY – Seven picks before the Green Bay Packers went on the clock in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens drafted Za’Darius Smith.
Who knows whether the Packers would have drafted Smith then if he were still on the board. They ended up selecting an inside linebacker from Michigan named Jake Ryan.
Smith’s rookie deal expired this past season, and once available on the open market in free agency, the Packers didn’t miss.
They agreed to contract terms and plan to sign Smith at the start of the new league year Wednesday.
The Packers also agreed to contract terms with Washington free agent Preston Smith, giving them a pair of power rushers.
Here’s a look at what the Packers are getting in the former Ravens pass rusher.
Production: Smith had 5.5 sacks as a rookie, showing promise as a young pass rusher. He then slumped with only one sack in 2016 and 3.5 sacks in 2017 before breaking out in a big way last season. Smith’s career-high 8.5 sacks led the Ravens. It was the first season he has played all 16 games, though he has never had a major injury. The Packers are banking on him being able to not only duplicate his breakout production, but hoping the edge rusher who turns 27 years old in early September can build on last year.
Tangibles: At 6-foot-4, Smith didn’t set the NFL combine ablaze four years ago. He ran a 4.83-second 40, though he followed with a 4.75-second 40 during his pro day at Kentucky. At 272 pounds, Smith is more of a power rusher than the speedsters who impressed at the combine last month. Regardless, Smith’s toughness impressed scouts.
Around the market: Smith isn’t as accomplished as Justin Houston or Jamie Collins, who became available when Kansas City and Cleveland, respectively, released them last week. His youth made Smith one of the most attractive free-agent targets. It’s rare that teams are able to find mid-20s pass rushers with decent production.