Packers finalize deal with former Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers have been losing defensive players left and right, so it makes sense that they are bringing in someone they think can help them right away.

Jaylon Smith, a 2019 Pro Bowl selection at inside linebacker, finalized a deal Thursday morning with the Packers, according to NFL Network and ESPN.

The signing won’t cost the Packers much because his $7.2 million base salary is guaranteed and will be paid by the Dallas Cowboys. It will be offset by whatever money Smith receives from another team, which isn’t expected to be much more than the $990,000 minimum for a player of Smith’s experience.

Smith won’t be able to help the Packers fill the voids on defense created by injures to outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (back) and cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder). But the Packers probably hope he can do a better job than Oren Burks or Ty Summers, who are the Packers’ two backups behind De’Vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes.

Former Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith should provide the Packers with depth at the position.

Last week against Pittsburgh, defensive coordinator Joe Barry put three inside linebackers on the field at times, teaming Campbell with Burks and Summers. It’s possible Barry will be able to expand use of that package with the addition of Smith, who had more than 100 tackles in each of the last three seasons.

Meanwhile, NFL Network reported that Packers edge rusher Chauncey Rivers sustained a non-contact knee injury at practice Wednesday, and ESPN reported that he suffered a torn ACL. 

The Packers already were short of depth at the position with Za'Darius Smith out after having back surgery.

The Cowboys went to a new defense under Dan Quinn this season and drafted inside linebackers Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox in the first and fourth rounds. Though Smith is only 26, he suffered a catastrophic knee injury while at Notre Dame and missed all of his rookie season while rehabilitating ligament and nerve damage.

Smith is not the dynamic player he once was, but the Packers think they can squeeze some quality play out of him this season.

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Smith has played in every game the last four years and has started every game the last three. The Cowboys signed him to a five-year, $64 million extension before the 2019 season and it looked edge rusher Chauncey Rivers suffered a non-contact knee injury at practice yesterday, source said, and is being evaluated for a potentially significant injury. he would be worth every penny after totaling 142 tackles, 2½  sacks and an interception.

His numbers were good again last year, but this season the Cowboys decided he wasn’t good enough to start. He played in all four games (148 snaps) and was credited with 19 tackles.

Davante Adams tries to recruit Stephon Gilmore

Davante Adams knows how the Packers do business. He knew it well before dropping an Instagram message to Stephon Gilmore on Wednesday morning with a simple request: “Call me.” 

Alas, Gilmore did not call Adams. 

“I guess he didn’t see it,” Adams said, “but I kept it with the IG comment just to see just how hungry he was to be a Packer. But I guess he had other plans. But, yeah, it stopped at that comment.” 

For a few hours, there was excitement among Packers fans at the thought of adding Gilmore, an All-Pro cornerback the New England Patriots made available Wednesday. Almost as soon as that excitement flared, it disappeared. The Patriots traded Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers instead of the Packers, a team that needs reinforcements in their secondary after Jaire Alexander’s shoulder injury last week. 

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Adams said he never expected the Packers to trade for Gilmore, indicating it’s rare for the team to make such significant transactions in the middle of a season. 

“It’s just news,” Adams said, “especially here. I wasn’t expecting that to happen anyway. If it was a little bit more, I think they’ve got a pretty good feeling about how we’re going to move as a defense. So I wasn’t really expecting it to happen. I only commented on that to stir some (expletive) up. Just to be funny. But, yeah, it would be great to have him. He’s a great player, one of the best in the league still for sure. 

“So it wasn’t a joke like I didn’t want him here. I definitely would want him here, but definitely did not expect us to pick him up.” 

Adams said there’s urgency within the Packers' locker room to add to their roster, but that isn’t a new sensation this season. Even in prior years that didn’t have the uncertainty that looms this spring, Adams said he’s always wanted to add players who might help push the team over the Super Bowl hump. 

The Packers might have surprised their star receiver later Wednesday, reportedly working to finalize details to sign linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to NFL Network. Adams was asked if he planned to reach out to Smith, whom the Dallas Cowboys released Tuesday. 

“Potentially,” he said with a wink. “I’ll let you know. I’m not sure yet.” 

Matt LaFleur tight with Bengals coach Zac Taylor

For one year in Los Angeles, Matt LaFleur and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor were professional neighbors. 

LaFleur was the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2017 when Taylor was the team’s assistant receivers coach. Their offices were next to each other. During the year, LaFleur said, they became close as they “talked a lot of ball” with each other.

“First and foremost,” LaFleur said, “he’s a great person. He’s a guy I’ll always root for, except for this week.” 

The Packers will play Sunday at Cincinnati, where they will face one of the NFL’s upstart franchises. The Bengals have a matching 3-1 record this season behind hot play from young quarterback Joe Burrow, the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. 

The Bengals finished 2-14 in 2019, Taylor’s first season. They only improved to 4-11-1 last year. LaFleur said he isn’t surprised Taylor weathered the rebuilding years and is leading an improving team. 

“I have a lot of respect for him,” LaFleur said, “in terms of how he sees the game, his work ethic, his ability to communicate not only with the coaches but with the players. I thought he did an outstanding job for us in the one year I was with him in L.A., and it wasn’t a shock to me that he got a head-coaching job. I think he’s done a really nice job with his football team. 

“You can see the growth watching them this year. This is a really good group. Probably one of the more under-the-radar teams out there. You watch them in every phase, they bring it in every phase, on every play.”