The Jacksonville Jaguars lead the league in cap space and should be able to target pretty much every player they like in free agency. Should they pursue Green Bay Packers linebacker Preston Smith if he becomes a cap casualty?
A second-round pick by the Washington Football Team in 2015, Smith signed a four-year $52 million contract with the Packers in 2019. The Mississippi State product went on to have an immediate impact in Green Bay’s defense, logging 56 total tackles (11 for a loss) 12 sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception. However, his production took a dive in 2020 and registered just four sacks, no interceptions, and no forced fumbles.
Smith’s salary, his 2020 struggles, and the emergence of Rashan Gary could make him expendable. He’s set to count $16 million against the cap in 2021 and the Packers could free up $8 million by releasing him. He would leave an $8 million dead cap hit but his production doesn’t justify the amount of money he would make this season.
Why should the Jacksonville Jaguars pursue Preston Smith if available?
The Jaguars had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2020 and they knew they needed to make significant changes this offseason if they wanted to turn things around. They started by moving on from Todd Wash and bringing in Joe Cullen to oversee their defense. The next step will be to add playmakers to their defense, something they will be able to do thanks to their surplus of draft picks and cap space.
The Jaguars have a pair of studs in linebackers Joe Schobert and Myles Jack but need someone else to round out their linebacker corps. Smith is a talented pass rusher and has registered eight sacks or more three times in his six-year career. Jacksonville could offer him a one-year deal and see if he could bounce back in 2021.
Smith has previously shown he can pressure opposing quarterbacks, something the Jaguars failed to do in 2020. While it may not be a good idea to offer him a long-term deal if he becomes available, the Jags should explore the possibility of bringing him on an affordable deal.