Packers Rumors

Minor NFL Transactions:  11/30/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Detroit Lions

  • Waived/Injured: DL Da’Shawn Hand

Green Bay Packers

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Giants

  • Signed (off Bills practice squad): QB Jake Fromm

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Release Candidate: Packers’ Za’Darius Smith

A year ago, Za’Darius Smith was closing in on his second straight season with double-digit sacks. Through his first two years with the Packers, Smith had done nothing but validate the 4-year, $66MM contract he’d earned in free agency. Unfortunately, a back injury that has forced the seven-year veteran to miss all but 18 snaps of the 2021 season will require the Packers and Smith to have some tough conversations. 

A fourth-round pick out of Kentucky, Smith was drafted by the Ravens in the 2015 NFL Draft in hopes that he would replace pass rusher Pernell McPhee who had left in free agency to sign with the Bears. Little did they know, Smith would do quite an impressive imitation of McPhee. Both players had impressive rookie seasons – McPhee had 6.0 sacks and Smith had 5.5 – and fairly pedestrian numbers their second and third years – McPhee had 3.5 sacks over those two years and Smith had 4.5. Both players saved their best performances for their contract years with McPhee tallying 7.5 sacks and Smith racking up 8.5.

Smith leveraged that 8.5 sack season into his current contract with Green Bay. As a Packer, Smith started every game of the 2019 and 2020 seasons leading the team in sacks both years. When Smith missed Green Bay’s second game of the season it marked the first full game he had missed due to injury since Week 14 of the 2017 season.

Still, this injury has proven to be a major one. Smith started the season with his health in doubt due to a lingering back injury and it was clear after only 18 snaps that he was not ready to return to the field. Smith was shut down and hasn’t seen a snap since. The implications of an injury this debilitating have an unfortunate effect on the pass rusher’s contract status.

Now issues have already arisen with Smith’s contract after he showed dismay in the Packers’ handling of restructures this offseason. The Packers chose not to restructure quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ contract during a tumultuous offseason but utilized an automatic conversion clause in Smith’s contract to help subsidize an extension for running back Aaron Jones. The restructuring of Smith’s contract created a monster $28.1MM cap hit for next year, up from $14MM this season. If the Packers were to release Smith to avoid the cap hit, they would be left with $12.38MM in dead money vs. $15.75MM in cap room.

If Green Bay only had to deal with the cap hit, it would be an easy conversation of how to extend a new deal to Smith and avoid the massive number in 2022. But, in conjunction with a lingering back injury, the cap hit makes Smith’s potential to end up as a cap casualty more and more likely.

Now it’s not a foregone conclusion that Smith won’t work out a deal with Green Bay, but he’d have to be willing to take a bit of a pay cut from a team that has already shorted him in a contract situation. More likely would be Smith’s acceptance of a release that allows him to test his value on the free agent market. The Packers also probably wouldn’t mind the market setting the price, as it will likely be lower than Smith’s initial demands.

It’s also worth noting that a late season return has not been ruled out for the ‘backer, possibly giving him a chance to make his case for another big pay day.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/27/21

Here is how teams finalized their Week 12 rosters:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

  • Promoted: WR Matt Cole, OL Austen Pleasants

Cincinnati Bengals

Green Bay Packers

  • Promoted: LB La’Darius Hamilton

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 11/26/21

Here are the latest practice squad moves from around the league:

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

  • Reinstated from practice squad reserve/COVID-19 list: RB Jake Bargas

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

Packers Expect Late-Season Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith Returns

The Packers finished their Week 11 loss to the Vikings without most of their Pro Bowlers. In addition to David Bakhtiari and Aaron Jones‘ absences, Elgton Jenkins suffered a torn ACL. And the outing marked yet another game without Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander.

While little clarity has emerged on Smith and Alexander’s statuses, it appears the Packers are not expecting either to miss the rest of the season. The Packers are eyeing a Smith return at some point during the regular season’s final six weeks, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (ESPN+ link). Ditto Alexander, whom The Athletic’s Matt Schneidmann adds is expected to be back at some point late in the season as well (subscription required).

The lack of concrete timetables over the past several weeks opened the door to one or both standouts being shut down. That was in play for Alexander, but the fourth-year cornerback did not opt for surgery. Green Bay’s top cover man has instead progressed to the point he is working out without an arm sling, Schneidmann adds. Alexander suffered a shoulder injury in Week 4. A rebound for Alexander will only further bolster his stock, with a clear extension window opening ahead of his 2022 fifth-year option season.

Smith has been out with a back injury since Week 1, and the Pack’s top sack man having battled back trouble this offseason and during camp creates a murkier situation. The seventh-year pro underwent surgery in late September and has a monster cap number ($28.1MM, up from $14MM this season) in 2022. While Smith’s post-2021 Wisconsin future is highly uncertain, his return to rejoin Preston Smith and Rashan Gary would be a tremendous boon to the Packers’ Super Bowl chances. Smith totaled 26 sacks between the 2019 and ’20 seasons.

Neither Smith nor Alexander has been designated to return from IR. Once the Packers make those moves, respective 21-day activation windows will open. The Packers’ defense has played well without its top players, ranking fifth in points allowed and seventh in yards yielded. While the Vikings dented the previously stingy unit, the Packers can hope their squad will be reinforced with top-level talent in the not-too-distant future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/24/21

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Tennessee Titans

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 11/24/21

Here are Wednesday’s practice squad moves:

Denver Broncos

  • Signed: OL Zack Johnson

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

  • Signed: LB Connor Stachan

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Signed: WR John Hurst

Washington Football Team

  • Signed: G Deion Calhoun, C Tyler Gauthier

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 11/23/21

Today’s taxi squad moves:

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

New England Patriots

  • Signed: P Corliss Waltman

New Orleans Saints

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

  • Signed: C Tyler Gauthier
  • Released: LB Anthony Hines, WR Damion Willis

Latest On Packers’ David Bakhtiari

Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero). That means Bakhtiari won’t be able to practice or play this week, but the procedure should enable him to return sometime before the season is through. 

[RELATED: Packers’ Jenkins Done For Year]

Bakhtiari tore his ACL at the tail end of December 2020, forcing him to undergo reconstructive surgery in January. He was clearly missed in the playoffs, as the Buccaneers’ front seven rushed the Packers’ backfield with ease. Now, in the wake of Elgton Jenkins‘ own ACL tear, the Packers need him more than ever.

The All-Pro left tackle was activated from the PUP list earlier this month, making him eligible for his 2021 debut. He’s still a few weeks away from seeing the field, but the clean-up surgery is expected to put him on the right track.

Before the injury, Bakhtiari had never missed more than four games in one season. One of the game’s best protectors when healthy, Bakhtiari has earned four Pro Bowl selections and and two First-Team All-Pro nods.

For now, the Packers will be leaning heavily on Yosuah Nijman, Dennis Kelly, and other would-be reserves to hold down the fort. They’ll be short-staffed on Sunday when they host the Rams this week, but Bakhtiari may be ready to face the Bears on Dec. 12, after the Packers’ Week 13 bye.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions:  11/22/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Jordan Brown

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Giants

Tampa Bay Buccaneers