Preston Smith

Packers Aiming To Reduce Aaron Jones’ Cap Number, Not Expected To Re-Sign AJ Dillon

Just more than a year ago, the Packers helped lay the groundwork for a rough running back year. They reached a pay-cut agreement with Aaron Jones, ensuring he would stay for the 2023 season. That pact paid off, with Jones helping drive the team to the divisional round.

GM Brian Gutekunst said earlier this offseason the team planned to retain Jones, who is going into his age-29 season. But the Packers are interested in lowering Jones’ $17MM 2024 cap number. With this being the final year of the talented running back’s contract, such a reduction is a trickier matter.

Packers brass and Jones’ agent met Friday about making the change, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein. It is unclear how the sides plan to accomplish this goal. Also unclear: how motivated Green Bay is to make the move. An all-or-nothing effort on this front would naturally put Jones’ roster spot in jeopardy. An extension would help here, as going deeper into the void years well would increase dead money associated with the contract-year RB.

Jones accepted a $5MM reduction in exchange for an $8.52MM signing bonus last February. The void years from that adjustment run through 2027. Were Jones to depart as a free agent next year, the Pack would be hit with $6.6MM in dead money. Should Green Bay release the productive back now, a post-June 1 designation would probably be necessary. That would only leave the team with $5.7MM in 2024 dead money, while bringing more than $11MM in cap savings. That said, Jones remains a valuable piece and the only veteran presence among the team’s skill-position corps.

A four-year Packer contributor, AJ Dillon is on track for free agency. The between-the-tackles bulldozer is not expected to be re-signed, Silverstein adds. Although Jones battled hamstring and knee injuries in 2023, he returned and ripped off a borderline-dominant stretch to help the Packers make a late-season charge that ended with the team putting a scare into the eventual NFC champion 49ers in Round 2. Jones put together for five consecutive 100-plus-yard rushing games to close the season. Dillon did not fare as well in a contract year.

The former second-round pick averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry, scoring just two touchdowns. The Packers leaned on their experienced RBs last season, deploying a WR-TE contingent consisting entirely of first- or second-year players. Dillon totaled 1,573 rushing yards and 12 TDs between the 2021 and ’22 seasons, becoming a popular presence in Green Bay despite a limited pass-game skillset.

Jones is one of the game’s best dual-threat backs, and the Packers would certainly miss the former fifth-round pick if he was jettisoned. That said, a host of options will be available to RB-needy teams in free agency. That spells trouble for Dillon, who joins Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry, Tony Pollard, D’Andre Swift and Gus Edwards as notable backs set to hit the market. The Bengals may add Joe Mixon to this list soon as well. This would help the team with Jones, who is due an $11.1MM base salary next season. Though, it is unclear if the Packers are planning another pay-cut ultimatum.

The Packers recently created some cap space by restructuring the contracts of Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, per’s Field Yates and’s Tom Pelissero. The moves created more than $7MM in cap space together. Green Bay, which is also likely to release David Bakhtiari, currently holds just more than $14MM in cap room.

Trade Rumors: Packers, Smith, Byard, Raiders, Broncos, Jeudy, Sutton, Rams

Attached to his second Packers contract, Preston Smith is signed through 2026. During a 2022 offseason in which the Packers released Za’Darius Smith, they reupped Preston Smith on a four-year, $52.5MM pact. With the team going through considerable change since that point, the soon-to-be 31-year-old outside linebacker is a name being tossed around in scouting circles ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline, Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes. It would cost the Packers just more than $4MM in dead money to trade Smith before the deadline, and the team has a clear extension candidate on the edge in Rashan Gary. Green Bay also used the No. 13 overall pick on pass rusher Lukas Van Ness in April.

In his fifth year with the Packers, Smith has two sacks and five QB hits. Smith posted 17.5 sacks between the 2021 and ’22 seasons, however. His contract would not be difficult for a team to absorb, with a March restructure knocking the 2023 salary to $1.17MM. No guaranteed money remains on the deal post-2023.

With five days remaining until trades are shut down for the year, here is the latest on potential moves:

  • Kevin Byard refused a Titans pay-cut request this offseason, later agreeing to a resolution that helped the Titans afford DeAndre Hopkins. Even as the Titans fell to 2-4, the eighth-year safety did not request a trade, Terry McCormick of notes. Byard, 30, still wanted to finish his career with the Titans, per McCormick, who adds the Titans became receptive when the Eagles inquired on the All-Pro’s availability. The Eagles sent fifth- and sixth-round picks, along with safety Terrell Edmunds, to the Titans for Byard. While Byard is a Philly native, he has played his entire college and pro careers in Tennessee. Jon Robinson‘s first draft as Titans GM produced Byard in Round 3 out of Middle Tennessee State; Byard is signed through 2024.
  • On the wrong end of one of this season’s worst losses — a 30-12 rout at the hands of the Justin Fields-less Bears — the Raiders are 3-4. But the team is not shifting into sell mode just yet, with Tashan Reed of The Athletic indicating the team is still looking at buyer’s moves (subscription required). A pass rusher remains a clear target for the team, per Reed, though a move to separate from Hunter Renfrow continues to be circulated. The Raiders used the No. 7 overall pick on Tyree Wilson, but their plan of grooming the Texas Tech alum behind Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones combusted after Jones’ messy saga led to an arrest (and later a second arrest) before a release from the NFI list. Wilson has one sack so far, and Crosby remains the only Raider with more than 1.5 this season.
  • While could certainly be classified as posturing, the Broncos are not committed to moving one of their receivers before the deadline. Trade targets before last year’s deadline as well, Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton came up frequently as trade chips this offseason. Should Denver not receive a substantial offer, The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider notes the team is fine moving forward with each and continuing to build on an offensive improvement after last season’s disaster. Jeudy, who is tied to a $12.99MM fifth-year option salary in 2024, has been viewed as more likely to be moved. But his value has dropped compared to where it was this offseason, which could put the Broncos to a big-picture decision. Sutton, whose $15MM-per-year contract runs through 2025, has been more effective in Sean Payton‘s offense. Although the Broncos will drop to 2-6 if they lose yet again to the Chiefs this week, it is far from a lock the team trades one of its wideouts.
  • Rumblings about the Rams going back to the buyer’s well surfaced recently, but The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue indicates the team is not expected to be a notable player before the deadline. Sean McVay said recently the team would likely stand down this year, which will be a letdown for headline-driving purposes, considering what the Rams have done at past McVay-era trade deadlines.

Packers Rumors: Rodgers, Love, Lazard

We are now 10 days away from the start of the 2023 league year, and there is still no clarity on the Aaron Rodgers situation. In February, a report surfaced indicating that the Packers’ entire power structure is “done with Rodgers” and ready to turn the QB reins over to Jordan Love, while a subsequent report suggested that Green Bay would be amenable to a Rodgers return if the 10-time Pro Bowler is “fully bought in.”

Rodgers’ “darkness retreat,” in which he spent a few days in isolation to consider his future, concluded sometime in the middle of February, but at the end of the month, GM Brian Gutekunst said that he had not yet spoken with Rodgers aside from a few text messages (via Rob Demovsky of And, as Demovsky noted, Gutekunst was noncommittal when asked who his 2023 QB1 will be, which is notable in light of his unequivocally stating in December that he wanted Rodgers back and then deferring to Rodgers’ four MVP honors when asked in January which of his top two passers gives the club the best chance to win.

As of now, the beginning of free agency on March 15 remains the soft deadline for Rodgers to make a decision as to whether he wants to retire, return to the Packers, or be traded, though Gutekunst is still not pushing the franchise icon to clarify his intentions.

Now for more from Titletown:

  • In the same piece linked above, Gutekunst is quoted as saying that he has not had any specific trade talks concerning Rodgers. We did hear last month that the Jets had “inquired” on Rodgers’ availability, though technically speaking, such an inquiry may not qualify as “trade talks” if actual compensation was not discussed.
  • Also in Demovsky’s piece, Gutekunst reiterated his belief that Love is ready to be a starting quarterback, and as Tyler Dunne of (subscription required) writes, many current Packers players believe the same, just as the team knew Rodgers was ready to take up the mantle from Brett Favre in 2008. All of the Rodgers-related reports that have surfaced in 2023 lend credence to the notion that, while Green Bay may be open to one more year with Rodgers at the helm, it may actually prefer to trade him and begin life with Love.
  • Moving away from the Packers’ quarterbacks room, free agent-to-be WR Allen Lazard told SiriusXM NFL Radio last month that his agent has had some discussions with team brass about a new contract, but at this point, it sounds as if Lazard will have a chance to test his luck on the open market (audio link). With Davante Adams no longer in the picture, Lazard became more of a focal point of the Green Bay offense in 2022, setting career bests in targets (100), receptions (60), and yards (788). His 60% reception rate was a career low, though Rodgers has said, if he returns to the Packers in 2023, he would want the team to re-sign Lazard.
  • Another of Rodgers’ favorite targets, WR Randall Cobb, recently underwent ankle surgery, per Ian Rapoport of (via Twitter). Cobb, 32, is out of contract, though if he chooses to play in 2023, he will be able to do so without pain.
  • The Packers recently restructured the contracts of a few high-profile players for salary cap purposes. Per Rapoport, cornerback Jaire Alexander and edge defender Preston Smith both agreed to reworked deals that will open up a little more than $16MM of cap space (Twitter link). Demovsky passes along some details (Twitter links), pointing out that the team added a void year (2027) to the back end of both contracts.
  • Likewise, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets that the Packers converted roughly $13.8MM of DT Kenny Clark‘s 2023 pay into a signing bonus, thereby opening up a little over $11MM in cap room. Demovsky again offers a complete breakdown of the restructure (via Twitter).

Notable Incentives Still In Play For 2022

As we head into Week 17, a number of players still have key incentives available. Here is a handful of the notable escalators in reach — many involving Smiths — courtesy of’s Albert Breer.

  • Justin Houston, OLB (Ravens): Already collecting $1MM by reaching 7.5 sacks, the 12th-year pass rusher (nine sacks) can move that number to $1.5MM by getting to 10.
  • Christian Kirk, WR (Jaguars): The big-ticket Jags signing can collect $500K by hitting 80 receptions, with another $500K available if he reaches 90. Kirk has 76 catches. The ex-Cardinal (988 receiving yards) can also collect $1MM by surpassing 1,100.
  • Raheem Mostert, RB (Dolphins): The offseason addition will almost certainly add $1MM to his 2022 earnings. By clearing 900 scrimmage yards, Mostert needs only the Dolphins to stay in the top 25 in total offense. Considering Miami ranks ninth, it is a good bet the ex-49er — who signed for one year and $2.2MM — will cash in.
  • Geno Smith, QB (Seahawks): After already collecting $1MM for hitting playing-time incentives and $500K by making the Pro Bowl, Smith is likely to add another $1MM by eclipsing 4,000 passing yards for the first time. Smith, who signed for one year and $3.5MM, has 3,886 yards through 15 games.
  • Preston Smith, OLB (Packers): Sitting on 8.5 sacks, the veteran edge rusher can collect $1MM by ballooning that number to 10. Another $1MM would be in play for Smith if he reached 12 sacks this season.
  • Za’Darius Smith, OLB (Vikings): The 2022 Minnesota signee can up his incentive package to either $750K by hitting 10.5 sacks or $1MM by reaching 12.5. The veteran edge has 10 sacks through 15 games.
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (Chiefs): Leading Chiefs wideouts in receiving yards (877) by a wide margin, Smith-Schuster is likely to enhance his already-impressive incentive collection by topping 900 receiving yards. That would put the ex-Steeler at $3MM in total incentives earned. Signing a one-year deal worth $3.76MM, Smith-Schuster has already collected $2.5MM in escalators.
  • J.J. Watt, DL (Cardinals): Lastly, the retiring D-lineman collected $900K by reaching nine sacks (9.5); he can bump that number to $1MM by tallying a 10th sack over the team’s final two games.

Packers Re-Sign Preston Smith

At least one of the Packers’ pass-rushing tandem of Smiths will be staying in Green Bay. Preston Smith has signed a four-year, $52.5MM extension (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). The deal keeps him under contract for five years total, and he will earn $14MM in 2021. USA Today’s Josina Anderson adds that the contract could reach a maximum of $75MM and there are annual bonuses tied to sack totals (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Packers Won’t Keep Za’Darius Smith At Current Price]

Smith, 29, was thought to be in line for a new contract as the Packers try to keep as much of their improved defense intact while retaining Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. At an annual average of $13.125MM, this deal is also far more manageable than what Za’Darius Smith was scheduled to make. Between the new contract and shifting $3MM of his 2022 salary into a roster bonus, the Packers will lower his cap hit by $7.25MM for this season.

The former second rounder enjoyed a bounce-back campaign in 2021, totalling nine sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. That was a welcome sign for the Packers after he registered just four sacks the year prior. Alongside Rashan Gary, and in the absence of the other Smith for most of the year, Preston was an integral part of Green Bay’s front seven.

Even with the reduced cap number, the Packers still have plenty of work to do in order to become cap compliant. The team is currently in line to be more than $30MM over the ceiling, though much of that total will come down if they release Za’Darius Smith. Doing so is now more of a viable option, with Preston in the fold for the long term.

Packers Nearing New Deal With Preston Smith?

The Packers have plenty of work to do as they try to get under the salary cap for the 2022 season. One step they can take towards compliance – not to mention keep a key piece to their defense in Green Bay – is giving edge rusher Preston Smith a new contract. 

According to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline, that could be exactly what happens in the near future. He reports that “things seem to be moving quickly and smoothly” with respect to a new deal. Smith, 29, has one year remaining on his current pact. In part as a result of a 2021 restructure, however, both his salary and cap number are set to spike significantly. He is currently slated to count for just under $20MM against the cap next season.

For that reason, Pauline predicts that any new pact would include “more upfront money” this season as a means of spreading that cap hit over future years. Arriving at a value for said contract could be difficult for the Packers, however. Putting aside their current complicated financial situation, Smith’s 2021 season fell in between his best and worst in Green Bay in terms of production. In 16 games, he totalled 38 tackles, nine sacks and two forced fumbles – better than the previous campaign, but short of his career year in 2019.

Of course, money could be easier to come by for the Packers if they hold true to previous reports that fellow edge rusher Za’Darius Smith won’t be brought back at his current cap figure. Reducing that number (currently set to be $27.6MM) could open the door not only to keeping that Smith in Green Bay, but Preston as well. In any case, Pauline expects a new contract for the latter to be finalized “sooner rather than later”.

Assuming a new deal can be reached, the Packers would be guaranteed at least two-thirds of the pass rush triumvirate consisting of both Smiths and Rashan Gary being in place for 2022. Especially if it were to lower his cap hit, a renegotiated contract would of course also help the team keep as many key pieces in place as they can, in an attempt to keep their Super Bowl window open as long as possible.

Za’Darius Smith Working Towards Return

Packers’ head coach Matt LaFleur announced today that Za’Darius Smith has returned to practice after 17 weeks on IR. He’s been designated to return so this practice begins the window of return before Smith must be placed back on IR. 

The Packers have been working without their Pro Bowl pass rusher for all but 18 snaps of football this year. Smith exited the team’s Week 1 matchup with a back injury that had been nagging him for most of the offseason. Smith underwent back surgery in hopes that he could make a late-season return, and he’s hoping to stand by that expectation.

Smith had seen two straight seasons of double-digit sacks since signing with the Packers as a free agent. Green Bay has been eager to see their top pass rusher paired up again with Preston Smith and an improved Rashan Gary. In his absence, Preston Smith and Gary have combined for 18.5 sacks this season.

This return is timely as the Packers have a first-round bye in the playoffs before they face off against the lowest remaining seed from Super Wild Card Weekend. This means Smith will have two weeks of practice to get back up to game speed and be ready to contribute. Green Bay will be excited to get a boost to their pass rush as they strive for their first Super Bowl appearance since winning Super Bowl XLV as a Wild Card team in the 2010-11 NFL season.

Packers Rework Preston Smith’s Contract

Preston Smith will be back for a third Packers season. The sides agreed on a reworked deal Friday, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (on Twitter).

The veteran edge rusher will now be attached to a $1MM base salary in 2021, Ian Rapoport of tweets, adding that much of Smith’s 2021 money will be converted into a signing bonus. That will cover $6.5MM, with Rapoport adding that there will be $4.4MM available via sack-based incentives.

As for the sack thresholds, Rapoport tweets Smith will need to reach six to trigger the minimum escalator ($500K). There are $750K bumps at the eight- and 10-sack marks, with the $1MM-plus incentives tied to 12 and 14 sacks. Smith has only eclipsed eight sacks once in six seasons.

Friday’s changes will reduce Smith’s cap number — previously at $16MM for ’21 — considerably while slashing his earnings somewhat. But the six-year veteran previously loomed as a cap-casualty candidate. The Packers will save $7.25MM by reworking Smith’s deal, per the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Pete Dougherty (on Twitter); they would have saved $8MM by cutting Smith.

One of the Packers’ two big-ticket 2019 edge signees, Smith took a step back last season. After registering 12 sacks in his first Packers slate, the ex-Washington linebacker ended the 2020 campaign with just four sacks and 11 QB hits. He also lost his starting spot to Rashan Gary for a time. But Gary and both Smiths — Preston and Za’Darius — are due back for a third season together.

Packers Likely To Restructure Aaron Rodgers’ Contract

The Packers cleared over $10MM of cap space by releasing Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner several days ago. However, Green Bay is still about $13MM above the cap floor of $180MM, so there is plenty of work to do before the 2021 league year officially begins on March 17.

According to Rob Demovsky of, the Packers will almost certainly restructure quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ contract in an effort to create additional cap room. The 37-year-old signal-caller is due a $14.7MM base salary in 2021, along with a $6.8MM roster bonus that will come due in March. Green Bay could convert some of that base salary into a signing bonus, a common maneuver that the club already executed with left tackle David Bakhtiari.

Of course, Rodgers said shortly after the Packers’ NFC Championship Game defeat in January that his future with the Packers was “uncertain,” which naturally led to plenty of speculation. Some reports suggested that his comments were an effort to secure a new contract that would represent a strong commitment from the franchise, whose selection of Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft clearly irked Rodgers. And another report indicated that the comments — which Rodgers later tried to downplay — were not contractually-motivated and that player and team were headed for a bitter divorce.

Meanwhile, Packers brass has insisted that Rodgers is not going anywhere, and Demovsky says the club certainly could undertake a more comprehensive restructuring of Rodgers’ contract beyond a simple base salary-to-bonus conversion. Green Bay selected Love on the heels of three consecutive “down” years from Rodgers (by his standards), but in 2020, Rodgers was nothing short of sensational. He set career highs in completion percentage (70.7%), QBR (84.4), and TD passes (48), so it makes sense that the team would be amenable to a new contract that gives its superstar additional security (financially and otherwise).

Demovsky also names OLB Preston Smith and DE Dean Lowry as potential cap casualties.

AFC Notes: Gordon, Colts, Ravens

The Patriots retained Josh Gordon‘s rights on via RFA tender, and the suspended wide receiver was spotted training with Tom Brady fairly recently. This does not mean the Patriots expect to have Gordon back. One of modern NFL history’s most unavailable players, Gordon is not in the Pats’ plans at this point, Ian Rapoport of noted during a WEEI radio interview (via NBC Sports Boston). While the defending Super Bowl champions would welcome the 28-year-old talent back if he proved to be a “better version of himself” off the field than what showed up in New England last year, Rapoport adds he isn’t certain Gordon will receive another chance or if the mercurial standout would capitalize on it at this point. The Patriots made several receiver moves this offseason, drafting N’Keal Harry in Round 1 and signing Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman and Maurice Harris.

As the final offseason weekend (for several teams) progresses, here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Deviating from their long-held ways in free agency, the Packers splurged on a pair of pass rushers this offseason in bringing in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. The latter Smith was on the Colts‘ radar. Despite holding the most cap space in the league entering free agency, the Colts let the market’s top pass rushers sign elsewhere before agreeing to terms with Chiefs cap casualty Justin Houston. But Chris Ballard targeted Preston Smith at free agency’s outset, Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star notes. Green Bay landed the former Washington edge player for four years and $52MM (just $16MM guaranteed). Houston, 30, nearly matched the 26-year-old’s guarantee figure, with $15.5MM, on his two-year, $23MM accord.
  • Michael Pierce‘s offseason downtrend continued Saturday when the Ravens placed the nose tackle on their active/NFI list. In addition to the contract-year interior lineman starting camp with that designation, the Ravens placed offensive lineman Alex Lewis on their active/PUP list, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic tweets. Pierce, who skipped Ravens OTAs after not signing his RFA tender until June, was overweight to the point of needing to be yanked from practice at minicamp. Lewis underwent offseason shoulder surgery. Both starters can be removed from these lists and return to practice at any point during camp.
  • Broncos GM John Elway does not have near-future retirement plans, but the ninth-year executive is approaching his career year-by-year at this point.