Stop us if this sounds familiar: a legit title contender has a major decision to make about a veteran pass rusher taking up far too much space of his team’s salary cap heading into a new year.
The Green Bay Packers have to figure out how to handle the exorbitant amount of money owed to pass rushers Zadarius Smith this offseason in much the same way the Chiefs have to do the same with Frank Clark. While no one is quite sure what will happen with either player—from restructure to release for either—a rumor is swirling that the Chiefs might be interested in what the Packers decide to do.
Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network reports that scouts called the Chiefs “smart money” to go after Zadarius Smith if Green Bay decides to set him free given that he’s owed over $27 million against the cap. The Packers could use the relief, but they would also miss his production on the field, making it hard to tell what they will do at this point.
If Green Bay Packers release Zadarius Smith, Tony Pauline reports that the Kansas City Chiefs would be very interested.
For the Packers, a move to release Smith doesn’t make much sense given how all-in they are with Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback. If there’s a time to pay through the nose for veteran help, it would be this coming season in a last-gap effort to chase a ring before Rodgers calls it quits.
Then again, no one is absolutely sure yet that Rodgers will be back and Smith’s cap hit might make it too difficult to keep him around. If so, Pauline says the Chiefs could be ready and waiting.
We’re not sure what to make of this rumor because there are very good reasons to like a move like this and very good reasons to dislike it. Smith has been one of the most consistent pass rushers in the league for the last few years, with 26 total sacks in 2019-2020 after signing with the Packers. He was a bit of a late bloomer for the Baltimore Ravens and came into his own during his contract season with 8.5 sacks in 2018 and Green Bay was rewarded for their belief in him.
At the same time, Smith is going to be 30 years old on any new deal signed and he just missed the majority of the season with a back injury that landed him on injured reserve for all but one regular season game. Back problems do not go away and for a pass rusher to perhaps lose some burst and bend as they get older or injuries settle in more, that could be the Chiefs moving from one oft-injured player to another in their attempts to find consistency in the pass rush.
Then again, Smith returned from injured reserve for the Packers and had a sack in the team’s single postseason game showing he still has what it takes to be productive. He’ll also certainly be plenty motivated to come back strong for a new team and last year was Smith’s first real injury concern at the pro level.
Will the Chiefs make a move? Is there any substance to this rumor? Would the Chiefs go all-in on someone coming off of a back injury? Is Smith a golden opportunity waiting to happen? There are a lot of moving parts here, but it’s intriguing to see the Chiefs mentioned in conjunction with Smith already as free agency begins to come into view.