December 20th, 2021 at 2:05pm CST by Zachary Links
The Giants have signed linebacker Jaylon Smith to the 53-man roster, according to agent Doug Hendrickson (on Twitter). Smith debuted as a temporary elevation on Sunday and he’s now a full-fledged member of the varsity squad.
Smith, 26, earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2019 with 154 tackles, good for the second-highest total in the NFL. He was still productive for the Cowboys early on this year too — the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus pegged him as a top-15 linebacker through four weeks. Still, the Cowboys opted to cut him and eat the remainder of his $7.2MM base salary. That led him to a two-game stint with the Packers and a December practice squad deal with the G-Men.
Terms of the contract are not known, but it’s likely a low-cost deal since the Cowboys are still on the hook for Smith’s original $7.2MM base salary. The former Notre Dame standout will be eligible to play this week when the Giants face the Eagles in Philadelphia.
Jaylon Smith is heading to his third team this season, and second in the NFC East. The linebacker has been signed to the Giants’ practice squad, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter).
The 26-year-old played four seasons in Dallas after being drafted by the Cowboys, but was released on October 5th. He ranked second in the league in tackles with 154 in 2020, but was let go after he declined to waive his injury guarantee for the 2022 campaign. That left the Cowboys on the hook for $7.2MM in dead money, but allowed them to move forward with their linebacking corps headed by first-round rookie Micah Parsons.
Smith caught on with another NFC contender, quickly signing with the Packers. He played just 27 snaps across two games with Green Bay, however, registering only one tackle. In November, he was let go for the second time this year.
Smith will now join a Giants’ team whose linebackers have been “hit by the flu”, according to the New York Daily News’ Pat Leonard. His first opportunity to play for his newest team will come on Sunday, against the Cowboys of all opponents.
November 2nd, 2021 at 11:57am CST by Zachary Links
The Packers are cutting linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Smith joined the Packers just a few weeks ago, but he’s back on the market and free to sign with any club.
Smith, 26, earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2019 with 154 tackles, good for the second-highest total in the NFL. He was still productive for the Cowboys this year too — the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus pegged him as a top-15 linebacker through four weeks. Still, the Cowboys opted to cut him and eat the remainder of his $7.2MM base salary.
Smith’s Packers tenure will end after just two games and a single tackle with Green Bay. The Panthers and the Washington Football Team were both said to be in on him in early October, so either one of those clubs could circle back. Smith may also make sense for the Steelers, who have just traded Melvin Ingram to the Chiefs for a Day 3 draft pick. The Steelers are reportedly eyeing defensive line help, but it couldn’t hurt to beef up elsewhere in the front seven.
The Packers, sans Smith, will ride a seven-game winning streak into this week’s game against the Chiefs.
With the Cowboys still on the hook for Smith’s $7.2MM base salary this season, the Packers landed the sixth-year defender for the league minimum. This amount to a recruiting competition instead of a bidding war, but Schefter adds Smith was interested in joining both the Panthers and Washington.
Smith’s relationship with Packers HC Matt LaFleur mattered here. Despite LaFleur coaching Notre Dame’s quarterbacks for just one season (2014, when Smith was a sophomore), Schefter notes he and Smith have kept in touch throughout Smith’s career and the relationship moved the needle. Smith did not suit up for Green Bay’s Week 5 game in Cincinnati, marking his first absence since Week 17 of his injury-redshirt rookie season, but will obviously be on track to contribute soon.
The Panthers have been busy on the trade front already, acquiring corners Stephon Gilmore and C.J. Henderson. They are looking for offensive linemen as well. Carolina moved Jermaine Carter into a three-down role alongside Shaq Thompson at this season’s outset. Washington used a first-round pick on Jamin Davis this year. He has played a part-time role thus far, with Cole Holcomb serving as a three-down ‘backer for the struggling WFT defense. The Cowboys had used Smith as a three-down player for years, but they reduced his snaps this season after making key offseason additions at the position.
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.”
Jaylon Smith wasn’t out of work for long. Days after his release from the Cowboys, the linebacker has agreed to a one-year deal with the Packers (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero).
Terms of the contract are not yet known, but it’s likely a low-cost deal since the Cowboys are still on the hook for Smith’s $7.2MM base salary.
Smith, a former second-round pick, was slowly being displaced by rookies Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox, as well as Keanu Neal this year. But, before that, he was a shining star for Dallas. Smith made the Pro Bowl in 2019, and his 154 tackles last season finished behind only the Texans’ Zach Cunningham. And, through four games this year, Pro Football Focus has him slotted as a top-15 linebacker.
The Notre Dame product figures to play a key role in Green Bay’s defense, alongside fellow 2016 draftee De’Vondre Campbell. As of this writing, the Packers’ ranks 25th in yards allowed per game and 16th in points allowed. Smith will try and help the cause starting Sunday when the Packers face the Bengals.
5:09pm: This may not be a done deal just yet. While the Packers are in discussions, Smith has not informed them of a commitment, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets. Other teams are still pursuing the sixth-year veteran, though Demovsky adds the Packers are the favorites. Still, Smith is believed to want to play in Green Bay, Rapoport adds (on Twitter). That may still be where this is headed, but the process is not finished.
4:32pm: After news of the Packers’ interest in Jaylon Smith surfaced, it appears the linebacker is planning to head to Wisconsin. The Packers and Smith are finalizing a contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
The Giants and Eagles may have had Smith on their radars, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, but the former Cowboys defender is expected to land in Green Bay (Twitter link). Smith and Matt LaFleur were both at Notre Dame in 2014, when the former was a sophomore and the latter the Fighting Irish’s quarterbacks coach. LaFleur remains high on the linebacker.
The Packers did win a bit of a bidding war for Smith, but with the Cowboys paying most of his 2021 salary, Rapoport notes this amount to more of a recruiting battle (Twitter link). After spending time in the northern Midwest in college, Smith will head back to Big Ten country. The Cowboys are on the hook for Smith’s $7.2MM 2021 base salary. Despite losing ex-Packer Blake Martinez for the season, the Giants are not believed to have expressed strong interest, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets.
Smith made the Pro Bowl in 2019, and his 154 tackles last season finished behind only the Texans’ Zach Cunningham. Still in his age-26 season, Smith has graded as a top-15 linebacker this year, per Pro Football Focus, and should be set to see extensive time on Green Bay’s defense. The Packers have seen mid-offseason addition De’Vondre Campbell deliver thus far; the ex-Falcons and Cardinals starter is averaging 10 tackles per game. Green Bay will have another 2016 draftee join him soon. Campbell went in the 2016 fourth round; Smith — due only to the severe foot injury he suffered in that year’s Fiesta Bowl — lasted until Round 2.
One of the league’s Super Bowl contenders is going after Jaylon Smith. While other suitors are believed to be in the mix, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes the Packers are making a push to sign the former Cowboys linebacker (Twitter link).
Matt LaFleur spent a season at Notre Dame during Smith’s tenure, his 2014 sophomore slate, and remains high on the accomplished defender. The Cowboys released Smith on Tuesday night. LaFleur coached the Fighting Irish’s QBs in 2014.
Green Bay has not been especially high on making splashy moves at its off-ball linebacker spots, but the team has turned to the midlevel free agent market multiple times in the past two years. The Packers signed Christian Kirksey in 2020 and, after releasing him this year, added De’Vondre Campbell.
Despite coming into the league in 2016, Smith is still just 26 and grades as Pro Football Focus’ No. 13 off-ball linebacker through four games. It would certainly add up if multiple teams made strong efforts to sign him. Green Bay holds just more than $7MM in cap space, which ranks 12th in the NFL.
Campbell has proven effective for the Packers thus far, having made 40 tackles in four games and intercepting a pass. He grades as PFF’s No. 4 overall linebacker, though we are still without too large of a sample size. Green Bay also has second-year man Krys Barnes on its defensive second level. Barnes missed Week 4 with a concussion.
Smith spent the past four seasons as a Cowboys starter. Despite a severe foot injury sustained in his final Notre Dame game, the former second-round pick has not missed an NFL game since sitting out his rookie season. Smith produced three straight 120-plus-tackle seasons in Dallas, topping out at 154 in 2020. That total ranked second in the NFL. Dallas, however, hired a new defensive coordinator and changed up its linebacking personnel by drafting Micah Parsons in the first round and signing Keanu Neal. This led to Smith becoming a marquee in-season free agent.
The Cowboys are moving on from a former Pro Bowler. The team is releasing linebacker Jaylon Smith, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter).
The Cowboys will still be responsible for paying the $7.2MM that Smith is owed in 2021, and the team is going to be eating an additional $9.8MM in cap with the move (per ESPN’s Field Yates on Twitter). That chunk of cap comes via Smith’s 2022 injury guarantees, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter), and that significant chunk of money is a big reason why the Cowboys were unable to find a trade suitor. Smith will be eligible to sign with a new team starting tomorrow afternoon.
Despite being relegated to a backup role in 2021, Smith had been playing pretty well for the Cowboys through the first month of the season. The linebacker had started two of his four games this season, collecting 18 tackles. However, after appearing in 104 defensive snaps in Week 2 and Week 3, Smith was limited to only 28 defensive snaps in Week 4.
The 2016 second-round pick evolved into one of the Cowboys most dependable defensive players during his stint in Dallas. He started each of the Cowboys 48 games between 2018 and 2020, including a 2019 campaign where he collected 142 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles en route to a Pro Bowl appearance. However, the play from teammates Keanu Neal and Leighton Vander Esch (as well as a potential increased role for Jabril Cox) made the veteran expendable.
Other than a weak Week 4 performance, Smith has been more than serviceable this season, ranking as Pro Football Focus’ 11th-best linebacker through the first four weeks (via Twitter). A linebacker-needy team will surely be happy to add the new free agent to their squad.