Packers' new edge rusher Preston Smith durable, and stout against run
GREEN BAY – After teams locked up their speed rushers with franchise tags before they hit the open market, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst used free agency to add strength to his team’s greatest weakness.
The Packers double-dipped at the position in free agency, agreeing to terms Tuesday with Baltimore’s Za’Darius Smith and Washington’s Preston Smith. They also released outside linebacker Nick Perry, a source confirmed to PackersNews.com.
Preston Smith will sign a four-year contract worth $52 million, a source confirmed. He’ll receive $16 million at signing and $27.5 million in his first two years. NFL Network was first with contract figures.
Here's the lowdown on Preston Smith (you can read information on Za’Darius Smith here):
Production: Before getting to sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions or passes defended, there’s a number the Packers no doubt appreciate with Smith: 64. That’s how many games he has played in four seasons, never missing one. With all the injuries they’ve dealt with on a yearly basis at edge rush, they surely understand the value of finding stability with an edge rusher who has never missed a game because of injury. Smith’s production has ebbed and flowed over the past four years. Twice, he’s had eight sacks in a season. He also had 4.5 sacks in 2016 and a career-low four sacks last year, giving him 24.5 for his career. (Za’Darius Smith has 18.5 in his career.) Smith has been a playmaker, with four career interceptions, four career forced fumbles and 13 defended passes.
Tangibles: Smith profiled as a taller Nick Perry at the NFL scouting combine, albeit with much more success at avoiding injuries. At 6-foot-5 and 271 pounds, Smith ran a 4.71 40 in Indianapolis. That’s a little slower than the 4.64 40 the 6-foot-3, 271-pound Perry ran. Smith’s 34-inch arms are an inch longer than Perry’s, and his 10 5/8-inch hands are paddles he uses to shed opposing offensive tackles. He’s also stout against the run, which more than pass rushing had been Perry’s greatest attribute to the Packers defense. Combined with Za’Darius Smith, the Packers signed a pair of pass rushers who can set the edge.
Around the market: New England’s Trey Flowers might have been hailed the top edge rusher on the open market, but the two Smiths weren’t far beyond. Preston Smith, especially, matches proven production with youth. The former second-round pick doesn’t turn 27 until September. Flowers will sign with the Detroit Lions, but the Packers might end up winners of the edge-rush sweepstakes. If Preston Smith can stay healthy, which he has his entire career, he’ll give the Packers a much-needed upgrade as a starting outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense.