Of course, Smith will still collect $7.2MMM in salary from the Cowboys. Before his release, the Cowboys asked Smith to waive his injury guarantee for 2022 (Twitter link via Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). He declined, prompting the Cowboys to cut him loose.
It all worked out for Smith, who figures to see a larger role with another NFC contender and some additional coin. And, with a strong year, he’ll see a huge payday in March. Smith, still just 26, was a Pro Bowler just two years ago. That year, he racked up 154 tackles, good for the second-highest total in the league. Meanwhile, the advanced metrics are still high on his work — Pro Football Focus ranks him as a top-15 linebacker at the one-quarter mark.
It’s a strong pickup for Green Bay, especially after they missed out on Stephon Gilmore. The cornerback was set to reach free agency on Wednesday morning, but the Patriots traded him to the Panthers instead. Trading for Gilmore would have meant taking on $5.8MM in base salary this year; Smith comes at a fraction of the price. He also figures to thrive under the tutelage of Matt LaFleur, who coached him at Notre Dame.
“Nothing’s official yet, but I go back a long time with Jaylon,” said LaFleur (via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky). “I’ve always had a lot of respect for him, not only as a football player but as a man. He was one of my favorites when I was at Notre Dame. I just think a veteran guy who’s played at a really high level and just can bring kind of a mentality and leadership to our defense.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.