Packers add trio of high-priced free agent defenders

Print

The old, outmoded Green Bay Packers approach to free agency is out the door. On the second day of the NFL's negotiating window, new general manager Brian Gutekunst got busy upgrading the defense.

The Packers are poised to add two pass rushers and a reliable safety.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday morning that the Packers are expected to sign former Baltimore Ravens edge rusher Za'Darius Smith and ex-Bears safety Adrian Amos, per sources informed of the deals. Amos' deal, Rapoport added, will be for four years worth $37 million, $21 million coming in the first two seasons. Smith's contract comes in the form of four years for $66 million with $34.5 million across the initial two seasons.

Green Bay is also expected to get a deal done with former Washington Redskins edge rusher Preston Smith, per Rapoport. RapSheet adds Smith's deal is for four years with a base value of $52 million.

Rapoport noted that the Packers tried to trade for Za'Darius Smith a few years ago when the linebacker was buried in the Ravens' rotation. Now Green Bay nabs the outside linebacker entering his prime.

And the spending wasn't done there, as the Packers added a piece the the offensive puzzle with Rapoport reporting they will sign former Broncos offensive lineman Billy Turner, a versatile get who can play guard or tackle. Turner's deal is for four years with a maximum value of $29.5 million.

Za'Darius Smith exploded in 2018, snagging a career-high 8.5 sacks, including a three-sack performance in the Week 6 shutout of the Tennessee Titans. Smith generated 60 pressures in 2018, 17th most among edge defenders in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.

The former fourth-round pick out of Kentucky owns the athleticism and ability to turn speed into power. He might struggle in run defense, but Smith will get paid to disrupt the passer. Still just 26 years old, Smith injects some youth and athleticism to a Packers decrepit pass rush.

Preston Smith brings a solid run defense portfolio to Green Bay along with the ability to disrupt the passer. The 26-year-old was one of the more underrated edge rushers to hit the open market, generating 53 pressures and 27 defensive stops in 2018, per PFF.

Heading into free agency, Green Bay sorely needed to give defensive coordinator Mike Pettine pass rushers to fill out his scheme. The Smiths fit what Pettine looks for in his pass rusher: Edge performers who salivate at the mere thought of slamming a QB.

Adding both Smiths is a big upgrade over ever-injured Nick Perry (who was cut after the free agency additions), and adds young legs to replace Clay Matthews, if the long-time Packer leaves via free agency.

Turning to the safety spot, Packers fans know Amos well after the 25-year-old former fifth-round pick spent the past four seasons in Chicago.

Amos never got the attention that Bears teammate Eddie Jackson garnered but was one of the most sound and consistent safeties in the entire NFL the past two seasons. Pro Football Focus graded Amos as a top-10 coverage safety each of the past two seasons. Over the past three seasons combined, Amos earned the third-highest grade among safeties, per PFF.

Adding a reliable safety who generated nine passes defended and two interceptions in 2018 fills a glaring need in the Packers' back end. Pettine loves to send rushers after the quarterback but needs to trust his secondary to achieve that goal. With a player as dependable as Amos in the defensive backfield, Pettine should be freed to get more creative in 2019.

Swiping Amos from the rival Bears offers an added benefit to Packers fans.

After years of the Packers mostly sitting out of free agency, Gutekunst put his stamp on his first offseason, providing Green Bay with a much-needed overhaul on defense.

Print