Packers fans have been waiting for a player to step up and fill the void left by the injury bug that has plagued their team all season. After a long wait, they finally got their wish in Jaylon Smith. The rookie linebacker is already making his presence felt on the field and he’s only going to get better as time goes on.
The injury bug has destroyed the Green Bay Packers in 2021, but they may have finally made their move against the troublesome creature that has wrecked many a season. The Packers have retaliated, allegedly completing a deal to sign former Dallas Cowboys inside linebacker Jaylon Smith on Wednesday — but the signing isn’t expected to be completed until Thursday.
Smith, a former Pro Bowler, was just released by the Cowboys, and the Packers were able to sign him in less than 24 hours. On both sides of the ball, injuries have been a problem for the Packers, but with so little room for error on defense, it’s obvious that taking a chance on Smith — who isn’t without risk — is the correct decision for Green Bay.
In more ways than one, bringing in Jaylon Smith makes sense for the Packers.
Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones #33 eludes Dallas Cowboys’ Jaylon Smith #54 and Robert Quinn #58 in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium | Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images
The acquisition was first reported by NFL insider Ian Rapoport, who tweeted that the two parties are in the final stages of negotiating a contract.
Smith, who was dismissed by Dallas for a number of reasons following a stellar career at Notre Dame, is in his fifth season in the NFL. Without a sure, it was a surprising late-season decision, but head coach Mike McCarthy made it sound like scheme fit was a major factor.
Dallas’ revamped defense, headed by new coordinator Dan Quinn, has made it difficult for Smith to see the field. He’s simply not the right match.
According to ESPN, McCarthy stated, “Really, this wasn’t an easy choice.” “He’s an excellent football player.” He’s been a great player here for a long time, but we have a [defensive] system, and I believe it’s obvious how we’re playing today after four games.”
McCarthy’s “junk” may wind up being Green Bay’s gem, despite the fact that Smith isn’t without ability. After 142 tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and an interception for the Cowboys in 2019, he was named to the Pro Bowl. With 154 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and an interception in 2020, he was similarly outstanding.
Green Bay is also getting a good bargain on the linebacker, and that’s true even before the terms of his new contract are made public.
Smith signed a five-year, $64 million contract with Dallas in 2019 — another reason for his surprising release — and the Cowboys will have to pay his $7.2 million guaranteed base salary no matter what deal he and the Packers reach. Smith’s basic pay will be offset by whatever money he gets from the Packers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Green Bay’s defense is in desperate need of help.
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry watches a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium | Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images
The beauty of Green Bay’s 3-1 record so far this season is that despite losing four of its top five players, the club has looked like a Super Bowl contender.
Despite the absence of two Pro Bowlers in left tackle David Bakhtiari and guard/tackle superhuman Elgton Jenkins, the offensive line has been solid. The Packers’ defense has stayed together despite the absence of great pass rusher Za’Darius Smith due to a back ailment, and now they may be without standout cornerback Jaire Alexander for an extended period of time.
Green Bay’s defense is still finding itself out under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, so an influx of talent will be a welcome departure from a front staff that has historically been cautious about pursuing free agents.
From Green Bay’s viewpoint, this is a low-risk, high-reward tactical maneuver.
Smith isn’t going to cost Green Bay much money if he’s really washed out. The Packers, on the other hand, are hoping that the former Pro Bowler’s sluggish start to the 2021 season is an exception.
Smith is ready to make an immediate impact in the starting lineup.
Smith has shown that he can be a constant presence for a defense, which is one of the greatest qualities in the NFL.
From 2018 to 2020, he started and played in 48 consecutive games, and in 2021, he appeared in all four of Dallas’ games, albeit he only started two. His availability is remarkable in in of itself, particularly given the devastating knee injury he endured in the 2015 Fiesta Bowl. After that injury, he went from a sure-fire first-round selection to a second-round flier for the Cowboys.
At the very least, Smith can provide a consistent presence at inside linebacker with De’Vondre Campbell, who has been a steady presence and a great free-agent acquisition for Green Bay.
Krys Barnes was the initial backup to Campbell this season, but he’s just recently returned to practice following a concussion. He’s showed glimpses in his own way, but it’s fair to believe Smith, a former Pro Bowler, will beat over Barnes, who was undrafted.
While Barnes may face a demotion, this move would be beneficial to the Packers’ depth chart. Barnes may emerge as a high-level backup, and as a No. 3 inside linebacker, he’d be a huge improvement over the disappointing Oren Burks and the downright terrible Ty Summers.
Even if he’s not quite the player he once was, there’s reason to think a guy of Smith’s quality might be a big help to the Packers’ defense.
Pro Football Reference provided the statistics.
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