The Green Bay Packers added a significant piece to their defense on October 7 when they officially announced the signing of linebacker Jaylon Smith, but the more impressive thing might be how little the move will end up costing them.
According to the contract details that NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport disclosed on Thursday afternoon, the Packers inked a one-year deal with Smith that will pay him just $770,000 over the final 13 games of the 2021 season, which is the veteran minimum for a player such as him with at least four accrued seasons.
Moreover, the Dallas Cowboys’ original contract structure with Smith helped make the entire thing possible. Smith signed a five-year, $64 million contract extension with the team in 2019 that came with $35.5 million guaranteed for the 2016 second-round pick. As a result, the Cowboys were left on the hook to pay the remainder of his $7.2 million salary for the 2021 season when they released him on Wednesday, effectively allowing Smith to make his money without demanding it from the Packers or another team.
The Cowboys also partially sabotaged themselves with the inclusion of an injury guaranteed in Smith’s contract for 2022. They would have been responsible for paying all of his $9.2 million salary next season if he were to get injured, which might have been a risk worth taking if they hadn’t crowded their linebacker position in the offseason with the additions of free agent Keanu Neal and first-round rookie Micah Parson alongside 2018 first-round Leighton Vander Esch.
Instead, the possibility of having to pay an exorbitant amount for a backup linebacker ultimately forced the Cowboys into action and allowed Smith to fall right into the hands of the Packers. Good things evidently still come to those who wait.
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LaFleur Helped Sway Smith to Packers
According to Rapoport, there were multiple teams interested in signing Smith once news broke that the Cowboys were planning to release him. The Carolina Panthers, who evidently attempted to trade for him when Dallas was shopping him around, were one such team trying to secure his services.
The final selling point for the Packers? Head coach Matt LaFleur, who coached at Notre Dame in 2014 when Smith was playing for the Fighting Irish and fostered a good relationship with him that they have maintained ever since.
“A lot of this was about the relationship,” Rapoport said on NFL Live on Thursday. “Matt LaFleur was at Notre Dame when Jaylon Smith was there. He was one of the best linebackers, probably the best linebacker in college football. Those two bonded. They remain close to this day. That’s why when other teams who had actually tried to trade for Jaylon — the Carolina Panthers were one — made a push for him, it was always going to be the Packers. That is where he wanted to play and contribute.”