Za’Darius Smith Undergoes Back Surgery

The Packers will be without their top pass rusher for longer than expected. Za’Darius Smith underwent back surgery this week, according to Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of (on Twitter).

While the Packers obviously hope this is not a season-ending situation, Smith’s timetable has been pushed back considerably. It will certainly be a while before the veteran outside linebacker suits up again. Smith, who suffered this back injury several weeks ago, remains on IR.

When the Packers placed Smith on IR after he aggravated his injury in Week 1, the team hoped the minimum three-week absence would be required here. But a late-season return is now expected, Rapoport adds (Twitter link). Green Bay is uniquely equipped to handle such an injury, with 2019 first-rounder Rashan Gary residing as the team’s third edge rusher. Gary and Preston Smith are operating as the Packers’ edge starters, though their pass rush is weakened without the two-time Pro Bowler.

This malady has dogged Smith since before training camp. The seventh-year rusher began camp on Green Bay’s active/NFI list but suffered a setback shortly after returning in early August. Smith, 29, managed to return for Week 1 but played just 18 snaps against the Saints. This looms as a key year for the late-blooming edge, whose 2022 Packers status is up in the air.

The Packers adjusted Smith’s contract this offseason, and the former Raven was not too pleased due to the team restructuring the deal but not paying Smith upfront. The Packers have since paid Smith the $10MM due from his base-to-bonus restructure, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. The team’s latest adjustment notwithstanding, Smith is still set to see his cap number spike from $14.6MM this year to a presumably untenable $28.1MM in 2022. Smith’s contract expires after the 2022 season.

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