Outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari shined during his first season in East Rutherford. One of the lone bright spots for the New York Giants in 2021, the Georgia product set a rookie franchise record with 8.0 sacks on the season. However, beyond Ojulari and the interior presence of Leonard Williams, the Giants lack much firepower in the pass-rushing department. Not exactly ideal for newly-hired defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who self-admittedly prides himself on running an attacking unit.
In three of Martindale’s four seasons as the defensive coordinator in Baltimore, the Ravens ranked within the top six of the NFL in quarterback hits. For reference, the Giants amassed 79 total quarterback hits a season ago, ranked No. 29 in the NFL. In an ideal world, general manager Joe Schoen would help facilitate some added defensive pressure via the trade/free agency market. And according to Bleacher Report Alex Ballentine, the ideal move for Schoen to make would be swinging a trade for one of Martindale’s former ace pass rushers.
“Za’Darius Smith broke out and earned himself a big contract with 8.5 sacks in his final season with the Baltimore Ravens,” wrote Ballentine. “That also happens to be the year that Don “Wink” Martindale made the move from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. Martindale now happens to be the new defensive coordinator with the New York Giants.”
Smith Done in Green Bay?
While the Giants currently find themselves in a less than favorable cap situation, the Packers cap outlook is considerably worse. Based on the $208.2 million team salary cap for 2022, Green Bay is more than $37.4 million over the cap, per Spotrac. Moving off Smith would vastly help the Packers’ finances — striking $15-plus million of his $27.6 million cap hit off of the team’s books — while also freeing up room for a blossoming edge presence in former first-rounder Rashan Gary.
“The Packers find themselves in a position where they are paying Za’Darius and Preston Smith nearly a quarter of their salary-cap space,” Ballentine noted. “With Rashan Gary proving he’s ready to take over one of their spots, it makes sense they would want to move one of the Smiths. Smith would instantly enhance New York’s pass-rush. He spent most of the 2021 season on injured reserve, but he had a sack on just 19 snaps in Green Bay’s lone playoff game. That’s a good sign he’ll be ready to produce again in 2022.”
Smith Needs a Change of Scenery, Says ESPN Insider
It’s not that Smith hasn’t produced for the Packers. In fact, when healthy, he’s developed into one of the league’s elite pass rushers during his tenure in Green Bay, collecting a whopping 30 sacks over 38 games (postseason included). However, despite that type of output, the relationship between the two-time Pro Bowler and the Packers organization hasn’t exactly been picture perfect, and according to ESPN insider Rob Demovsky it’s time for a “change of scenery”:
Smith went from being the Packers’ most important defensive player in 2019 and 2020 to a nonfactor in 2021. Yes, he dealt with a back injury that essentially ended his season after Week 1 (he did return for the playoff game), but there were issues even before that. He wanted a new contract last offseason and didn’t get one. He missed the entire offseason program and most of training camp, and then got upset when he wasn’t elected a team captain. The Packers need all the cap space they can get, and they’d gain $15.75 million by moving on from him.
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