The Green Bay Packers are restructuring another veteran player’s contract to help them re-sign star running back Aaron Jones for 2021.
According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Packers are reworking their contract with All-Pro outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, converting his $9.76 of his base salary and his $5 million roster bonus into a signing bonus to create $7.38 million in 2021 cap space. He will now carry a cap hit of $14.37 for the 2021 season.
Restructuring Smith’s deal helped the Packers offset some of the new cost associated with signing Jones to a four-year, $48 million contract extension. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Jones is due to earn $20 million over his first two years with a cap hit of $4.5 million in 2021 and $9 million in 2022.
Smith’s restructured deal will also increase his overall cap hit for the 2022 season from a little more than $20 million to $27.88 million, which could become problematic with him due to become a free agent in 2023.
Smith is the fifth Packers veteran to have his contract restructured this offseason, joining a running list of All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari ($8.54 million in cap savings), safety Adrian Amos ($750,000), outside linebacker Preston Smith ($7.25 million) and right tackle/guard Billy Turner ($3.56 million).
The Packers have now restructured the deals for all four of their high-profile free-agent signings from the 2019 offseason with the Smiths, Amos and Turner. Starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers also remains a candidate for restructuring with more than $10 possible in savings.
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Smith’s Restructure Kicks Can Down Road
There was some speculation the Packers would make efforts to extend Za’Darius Smith, not restructure him, given his value to their defense. The 28-year-old edge rusher has led the NFL in total pressures (93 in 2019, 105 in 2020) and tallied 26 sacks and 60 quarterback hits over his first two seasons in Green Bay, earning All-Pro honors for the first time in his career last year. He is also halfway through his four-year contract.
Instead, the Packers avoided making a long-term decision and kicked more money onto their 2022 books. Smith will now cost $27.88 million in the final year of his contract with a dead-cap number of $12.13 million for 2022 if they decided to part ways. Signing him to an extension could change that, but it is worth noting Smith will be 30 in 2022 and will have given the Packers another season to evaluate — which may help or hurt his case.