Packers Sign Free Agent OLB Preston Smith
The Packers are double-dipping on free agent edge rushers, signing former Washington Redskins outside linebacker Preston Smith. ESPN’s Rob Demovsky first reported the news.
A 6-5, 265-pound fifth-year player, Preston was a second-round pick in 2015. He had four sacks and five tackles for a loss in 2018 with career totals of 24.5 and 29 in those categories, respectively.
Per Ian Rapoport, the Packers and Smith agreed to a four-year deal worth a base value of $52 million. The free agent pass rusher will receive a $16 million signing bonus, and earn $27.5 million over the first two years.
Why they made the move:
The Packers’ word of the day is versatility. Smith did a little of everything for the Redskins and excelled to the point that his coverage abilities detracted from his pass rushing totals.
That was a frustration for Smith, who knew that fans and the media grade anyone who ever rushes the passer by one number: sacks.
"I think it’s unfair that people only think about sacks for my position," said Smith in October. "I get pissed off about not getting sacks, but it’s also, I drop in coverage a lot too. My responsibilities are more than just rushing the quarterback. So I mean, I impact the game in multiple ways than just rushing the quarterback. But people don’t see that, they just want outside linebacker, edge rush, they just want me to get sacks. It’s frustrating at times, it’s a long season. We’ve only played five games and I’ve been close in every game."
But Smith’s versatility isn’t everything. The Packers will count on him to improve as a pass rusher. Pro Football Focus thinks if he can, he’ll be worth the money.
What it means for the Packers:
This move means at least two things for the Packers. First, Nick Perry’s fate is sealed. No matter what the Packers pay their two new Smiths, they won’t be able to afford both their signings and Perry. Perry will almost certainly get the ax this week with a post-June 1 designation.
Second, this gives the Packers a lot of insurance in the draft. It’s no sure thing that one of this year’s high-end pass rushers would have fallen to the Packers at 12, but with the Smiths under contract, that’s less of a big deal than it could have been.
As a possible tertiary benefit, this could give the Packers a chance to take a longer look at Clay Matthews. Better than his numbers showed in 2018, Matthews can still do good things for your defense. He can’t do as much as he used to, but if the Packers think there’s anything at all left in his tank, they can offer him exactly what they think he’s worth — and no more. Simply put: the Packers don’t need Clay Matthews anymore, which frees them up to decide if they want him.
Grade the move: C.
A C, you say? Yep. Every free agent signing is a C until proven otherwise. There are too many variables to grade this move as anything other than completely middle of the road right now. It’s true of Smith and it’ll be true of anyone else the Packers sign.
Blue 58 host Jon Meerdink's thoughts:
Of the two, Preston would have been my second choice of the Smiths. Now I don’t have to choose. A double-dip is certainly a surprise, but not an unwelcome one. Bringing both aboard gives the Packers a lot of flexibility, both on defense and in assembling the rest of their roster through the draft and free agency.