Packers release outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith, tackle Billy Turner; Preston Smith gets new deal
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers cleared $19.1 million in salary-cap space Monday morning by releasing outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith and tackle Billy Turner.
The Packers made the cuts official Monday morning.
NFL Network first reported that the Packers were releasing Smith. The move reduces the Packers' salary cap by $15.7 million.
“We want to thank Za’Darius for his contributions to the Packers over the past three seasons,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said in a statement. “He came in and made an immediate impact on this football team, helping the team win three straight division titles.”
Earlier in the day, outside linebacker Preston Smith signed a four-year contract extension worth $35.3 million in new money, a source said. It saved the Packers $8 million in cap space.
“We are excited to have Preston continue his career with the Packers,” Gutekunst said. “Since coming to Green Bay, he has not only contributed with production on the field but has been a great presence in the locker room and a leader for this team.”
When the Packers released Turner, they gained another $3.43 million in cap space. The release of the starting right tackle was a surprise given how versatile and steady he has been over the past three years.
“We want to thank Billy for the big contributions he made to the Packers both on the field as well as in the locker room since signing in 2019,” Gutekunst said. “He is a true professional whose work ethic and leadership were big factors in the team’s success over the last few years.
The Packers cleared $27 million in cap space total and are now about $17 million over their adjusted cap of $215.4 million. They are expected to get a bulk of that from quarterback Aaron Rodgers' new contract, which will reduce his $46.4 million cap number considerably.
Preston Smith can make $75 million total on his new deal if he hits all of his incentives. He'll make $14 million in the first year and $27 million over two years. He gets a signing bonus of $12 million.
Preston Smith, who had one year left on his contract, has a salary-cap number of $19.73 million and the Packers needed to get it down significantly to free up space. Their choice was to restructure the deal, sign him to an extension or release him.
Preston Smith's deal is four years of new money, five total. His $8 million reduction in salary-cap money leaves the Packers about $36 million over. By releasing Za'Darius Smith they will get another $15 million gain.
Rodgers' deal has not been submitted but will lower the cap considerably.
Meanwhile, the Packers are close to agreeing to a new deal with free-agent cornerback Rasul Douglas, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network.
In an Instagram post, Smith is sitting at a table in what appears to be the Packers’ facility surrounded by his family as he gets ready to sign a document.
His one word post is: “Lifer.”
Preston Smith will make more than $14 million in the first year and $27 million over two years, the source said.
Smith signed a four-year, $52 million contract as an unrestricted free agent in 2019 and had an outstanding first season with the Packers, finished with 12 sacks. The following year his production fell considerably (four sacks) and the Packers requested a $4 million pay cut, although they gave him the opportunity to earn it back in incentives.
After coming into camp in excellent shape, Smith returned to his earlier form and finished the year with nine sacks. Just as importantly, he rose from the shadow of Za’Darius Smith, who missed all but two games with a back injury last year and became a veteran voice on defense.
With sack leader Rashan Gary under contract, Smith’s signing means the Packers will retain their two best pass rushers from last year.
Turner said good-bye to Green Bay in an Instagram post: