Injuries kept Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl linebacker Za’Darius Smith off the field until the very end of the season. Unfortunately for him, it appears he’s played his final games in green and yellow. According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the Packers are releasing Smith today. He was heading into the final year of a four-year, $66 million contract.
The move was widely expected as Smith had a whopping $27.6 million cap hit in 2022. Nevertheless, cutting Smith outright still isn’t going to get them out of salary cap hell. His release resulted in over $11 million in dead money against the cap. As a result, the Packers are still over $20 million in the red.
The #Packers have released Pro Bowl pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith, source said, adding another top defender to free agency. His cap number of $27.6M in 2022 was never going to work. Now, free — and healthy.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 14, 2022
Smith now hits free agency where he will most likely receive a superb contract. As a two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher, his position is at an absolute premium. Za’Darius Smith was a fourth-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2015 after a somewhat unremarkable career at Kentucky. But when he joined the Packers in 2019, everything changed.
In his first year in Green Bay, Smith started all 16 games and recorded a career-high 13.5 sacks. He added another 17 tackles for loss and 37 quarterback hits as he made his first Pro Bowl.The following year, Smith put up comparable numbers with 12.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 23 quarterback hits. Smith made his second Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors as well. Where will Za’Darius Smith play in 2022?