Packers dive into free agency with a flurry of signings
Have cash, will spend. That's the new mantra around Lombardi Avenue, even after last year's foray into free agency largely fell flat in the first post-Ted Thompson campaign.
The Green Bay Packers entered the offseason with nearly $36 million in cap space and have quickly tapped into that financial availability. The green and gold have reportedly agreed to terms with pass rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, safety Adrian Amos, and offensive lineman Billy Turner, as reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Below are the terms of each contract:
S Adrian Amos: four years, $37 million ($12 million guaranteed)
LB Preston Smith: four years, $52 million ($16 million guaranteed)
LB Za'Darius Smith: four years, $66 million (gtd. money not yet known)
OL Billy Turner: four years, $29.5 million ($9 million guaranteed)
Let's start with Amos, who fills quite possibly the Packers' biggest position of need. Not only does the Amos signing perk up the Packers' iffy pass defense – Green Bay finished 28th in pass defense DVOA last year – but his departure from the Chicago Bears also hinders a rival's biggest strength. The former fifth-round pick has been a linchpin for the Bears' defense over the past four years, starting 56 of his 60 career games and all 16 in 2018. Amos, who turns 26 in April, has three career interceptions and earned top-eight ratings among all safeties in each of the past two seasons (according to Pro Football Focus).
Joining Amos on the defensive side of the ball will be the pass rushing law firm of Smith & Smith. The 26-year-old Za'Darius is coming off a career year in Baltimore with 8.5 sacks, 25 quarterback hits and 60 quarterback pressures. Preston's sack total dropped to a career-low four in 2018, but he still collected 24.5 sacks over four seasons in Washington, and he can provide help dropping back in pass coverage as well. PFF handed both Smiths top-50 grades at their position last season, so while neither player will have a Khalil Mack-sized impact on the game, their combined presence will certainly elevate Green Bay's previously anemic pass rush.
Brian Gutekunst and Co. also picked up Turner, a switchable offensive lineman from Denver who played both the left guard and right tackle spots last year. Turner, 27, ranked 33rd among all guards in 2018, according to PFF.
While Amos certainly moves the needle for Green Bay, the other three signings all feature players who can be described as "varying levels of solid." Opponents won't be scheming for days to outmaneuver the Smiths or Turner, but they all bring a certain level of competence, youth, flexibility and upside to the starting unit. Perhaps more importantly, despite the initial sticker shock from these signings, the Green Bay front office has favorably structured the contracts for the team, giving the Packers options down the road.
It was a historic day in Titletown as the Packers handed out nearly $200 million in contracts. It's unlikely any of these four players match the production of Reggie White, the Packers' most famous free agent signing, but this is the type of leap Green Bay needed to make if it wanted to salvage the twilight of Aaron Rodgers' career. Holes still remain, but the Packers have answered many of the questions they faced entering this free agent period.
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