Preston Smith

Packers To Sign OLB Preston Smith

The Packers won’t stop adding to their defense. Green Bay has agreed to terms with outside linebacker Preston Smith, a source told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted that it’s a four-year deal for Smith worth $52MM. He’ll get $16MM to sign with $27.5MM coming his way over the first two years of the deal, Rapoport reports. It’s been a big day for the Packers, particularly on defense, as they’ve already added safety Adrian Amos and fellow outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. The three big signings in one day are indicative in the change of philosophy the Packers’ front office has undergone.

Under old GM Ted Thompson, the Packers were generally conservative and not very active in free agency. With team president Mark Murphy and new GM Brian Gutekunst now in charge, the team has been much more aggressive. With new coach Matt LaFleur in tow, the Packers have clearly decided to go bold.

They’ve already re-invented their defense, and will now have a very solid group of pass-rushers in both Smiths, Kenny Clark, and Mike Daniels. Smith comes to Green Bay from the Redskins, where he spent the first four years of his career. Last year he had 53 tackles, four sacks and one interception. The year before that he had eight sacks and two interceptions.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who LaFleur retained from Mike McCarthy’s staff, will have a lot of new pieces to work with. Paired with the returning pieces of Daniels, Clark, and the promising young cornerback duo of Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, the Packers’ defense has the potential to be really good next year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York Notes: Tannehill, Mosley, Giants

The Jets made some noise on Day 1 of the legal tampering period, adding Anthony Barr, Jamison Crowder and Josh Bellamy to the mix. Their Barr deal also may not preclude them from a C.J. Mosley pact. The Jets aggressively pursued the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker on Monday, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweets. Other teams — including the Browns, Colts and Redskins, in addition to the Ravens — made pushes for Mosley, and those may start back up again Tuesday. The linebacker remains unsigned. The Jets still have plenty of cap room and may be set to waive Darron Lee soon, creating room for Mosley alongside Avery Williamson.

While Barr is expected to help the Jets’ edge rush, he is also viewed as someone who will play off the ball, Mehta notes, comparing the latest high-priced Gregg Williams chess piece to Jamie Collins — the Browns’ off-ball ‘backer who would rush quarterbacks as well. However, it sounds like Barr — a UCLA edge defender — will see more time in rush roles than Collins did.

Here is more from the Jets’ first day of unofficial free agency and the latest from Giants headquarters:

  • A third Josh McCown Jets season could occur, with the team maintaining some interest in the soon-to-be 40-year-old passer backing up Sam Darnold, per SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. But McCown released a statement Monday night indicating he is undecided on continuing his career, which could put the Jets in the market for another backup.
  • One of those options figures to be Ryan Tannehill, given his three-year run with Adam Gase in Miami. However, the soon-to-be-released quarterback has not come up in Jets meetings about filling their QB2 role, per Mehta. Tannehill could command a higher-end backup salary, like McCown, due to his extensive run as a starter. But he has not proven he can stay healthy since his knee troubles began in 2016.
  • A Mosley backup plan may be former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall. The Jets expressed interest in the longtime Denver starter, according to Vacchiano. This would also point to Lee not being in the team’s plans any longer.
  • A third Morris Claiborne contract will not be on the Jets’ agenda, despite their need at corner, Vacchiano adds. Claiborne’s past two free agency stays ended with Jets deals; the veteran corner will likely have to seek his latest contract elsewhere.
  • The Broncos just reset the right tackle market, with their four-year, $52MM deal for Ja’Wuan James, and that should drive up the price for Daryl Williams. The Giants are likely to express interest in the former Panthers starter, Vacchiano notes. But as was the case with former Dave Gettleman find Andrew Norwell, whom the Giants tried to sign last year, Williams probably won’t come cheap. That said, Norwell and James were coming off healthy seasons; Williams missed almost all of last season because of leg injuries.
  • Big Blue, per Vacchiano, also inquired Monday about former Redskins outside linebacker Preston Smith, who is one of this market’s top edge defenders. The Giants just traded Olivier Vernon to the Browns and have a massive need on the edge. But Smith will also be a coveted commodity on this market.

Jets Interested In Fowler, Ansah

The Jets’ need for pass rushing help has been well documented and they’re already targeting some of this year’s biggest available names. Gang Green is showing interest in Dante Fowler (Rams), Ezekiel Ansah (Lions), and Preston Smith (Redskins), according to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini (on Twitter). 

This year’s crop, at first glance, is positively loaded with impactful edge rushers. However, top flight guys like Demarcus Lawrence (Cowboys), Jadeveon Clowney (Texans), Frank Clark (Seahawks), and Dee Ford (Chiefs) are expected to receive tags or sign long-term deals with their respective clubs. That may leave the Jets to sift through some lower tier options, though Fowler, Ansah, and Smith all have upside.

Fowler, a former No. 3 overall pick, didn’t do a ton during the regular season, but he made a dent in the Rams’ first two playoff games. Ansah was limited to just seven games in 2018, but his history (14.5 sacks in 2015; 12.0 sacks in 2017) shows that he’s capable of much more when healthy. Smith, who had only four sacks last year, has amassed eight sacks in two of his four pro seasons and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ eighth-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the league in 2018.

With $102MM+ to burn, the Jets should be able to sign at least a couple of impact edge rushers in March.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

No Contract Talks Between Redskins, Preston Smith

Preston Smith has quietly put together a solid four-year run with the Redskins since Washington selected him in the second round of the 2015 draft. Although his sack production has fluctuated a bit, he has posted 24.5 sacks in his career to go along with 59 quarterback hits, and the general consensus is that he still has room to grow.

He graded out as the eighth-best 3-4 outside linebacker in the league in 2018 (and No. 19 edge defender) per Pro Football Focus, and he may very well be the best rush linebacker on the market when free agency opens in March. Although the Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney and the Chiefs’ Dee Ford may be more desirable targets, they appear destined to remain with their current clubs, either through a long-term contract or the franchise tag.

Smith does not appear to be a candidate for a tag, and John Keim of ESPN.com reports that Smith and the Redskins have still not had any meaningful contract talks. That was the case in August, and it seems that nothing has changed since then. Washington did draft Ryan Anderson in the second round of the 2017 draft, and the 2019 draft is stocked with quality pass rushers, so it could be that the Redskins are prepared to increase Anderson’s role while adding a rookie quarterback hunter or two in April.

After all, Smith is in line for a nice payday. Pro Football Focus recently projected that Ford, if he does not play the 2019 season under the tag, would land a five-year, $95MM deal with $55MM in guarantees, and while Smith may not get too close to that, a contract worth a total of $60MM or so with a sizable guarantee would not be surprising. And since the Redskins’ salary cap will be negatively impacted by the Alex Smith situation, it makes sense that the team would want to explore cheaper alternatives.

One way or another, Preston Smith’s age, production, upside, and durability — he has not missed a game in his four years as a pro, and he has started every game for Washington since 2016 — will serve him well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins Notes: Smith, Thompson

Linebacker Preston Smith is slated to be a free agent after the season, but the Redskins have yet to approach him about a new deal (Twitter link via John Keim of ESPN.com). The Redskins have hammered out pre-season extensions with key players in the past such as Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, and Jordan Reed, but Smith is still waiting on that call. For what it’s worth, Smith says he’s staying patient.

You play good; they’re going to pay good,” said Smith, who matched a career-high with eight sacks last season.

If Smith is not signed to a new deal and can offer a repeat performance, he could be in store for riches in March. For now, the former second-round pick is set to play out the final year of his contract as he earns a modest $1.2MM base salary.

Here’s more from D.C.:

  • Redskins running back Chris Thompson says he likely won’t be fully recovered from his broken fibula until November (Twitter link via Keim). Thompson has had a handful of surgeries in his career, but he says that this has been his most challenging recovery to date. Thompson suffered the broken leg last November, so he’s looking at a full year before being back to 100%. It’s a frustrating situation for Thompson, who was in the midst of a breakout campaign before being sidelined in 2017. Heading into Week 11, Thompson had posted 771 yards from scrimmage, a total that had already topped his previous career high, and was averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He was even more effective in the passing game, where he recorded 38 receptions for 494 yards.
  • Recently, the Redskins extended the contract of backup quarterback Colt McCoy.
  • On Wednesday, the Redskins added linebacker/defensive end Dadi Nicolas to the roster.

East Notes: Wilkerson, Washington, Battle

Let’s take a look at a few notes from the league’s east divisions:

  • Other writers have opined the same thing, but Darryl Slater of NJ.com definitively asserts that Muhammad Wilkerson, despite some speculation to the contrary, will not be holding out of Jets training camp this month.
  • Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com takes a look at five players who may begin the season on the Washington bench but who could crack the starting lineup before the end of the year. He tabs ILB Martrell Spaight and OLB Preston Smith as particularly intriguing players to watch in the Washington front seven.
  • Similarly, John Keim of ESPN.com believes Smith will ultimately overtake Trent Murphy as a full-time starter at outside linebacker. Washington‘s coaching staff loves Smith’s length, his hands, and his versatility, and Smith appears to have a much higher ceiling as a pass rusher.
  • In the same piece, Keim writes that Kirk Cousins still has fans on the Washington coaching staff and among certain players, but even though he showed flashes of strong play last year, the critical turnovers he made and his inability to respond well to those turnovers have compelled the team to hand Robert Griffin III the starting job.
  • Jordan Raanan of NJ.com does not expect the Giants to be interested in any of the players available in the supplemental draft. We heard yesterday that Clemson OT Isaiah Battle may be a good fit for Big Blue, but Raanan thinks otherwise. Although New York may take a flier on Battle in the sixth or seventh round of the supplemental draft, there are likely a number of other teams who will put a much higher value on his talent.
  • Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe offers her take on the 10 best moves made in the AFC East this offseason.

Washington Agrees To Terms With 10, Waives One

Washington has agreed to terms with nine of 10 picks from its 2015 draft class, tweets Mike Jones of the Washington Post. Eight of the nine have signed their contracts, according to ESPN’s John Keim (Twitter link). The only member of the class without a deal is first-rounder Brandon Scherff. Here’s the full list of picks with whom Washington has reached agreements:

  • Preston Smith, linebacker, Mississippi State (second round, 38th overall)
  • Matt Jones, running back, Florida (third round, 95th overall)
  • Jamison Crowder, wide receiver, Duke (fourth round, 105th overall)
  • Arie Kouandjio, offensive lineman, Alabama (fourth round, 112th overall)
  • Martrell Spaight, linebacker, Arkansas (fifth round, 141st overall)
  • Kyshoen Jarrett, safety, Virginia Tech (sixth round, 181st overall)
  • Tevin Mitchel, cornerback, Arkansas (sixth round, 182nd overall)
  • Evan Spencer, wide receiver, Ohio State (sixth round, 187th overall)
  • Austin Reiter, center, South Florida (seventh round, 222nd overall)

Additionally, Washington has re-signed offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe and waived cornerback Courtney Bridget, according to Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com (via Twitter). The team waived Nsekhe last week before deciding to bring him back.

Rapoport On Browns, Vikings, P.J. Williams

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com has passed along a handful of noteworthy draft nuggets via Twitter this afternoon, so let’s check out what he has for us….

  • According to Rapoport (Twitter link), the Browns have spoken to Washington within the past week about possibly moving up to No. 5. Cleveland has two first-rounders to work with, and Washington GM Scot McCloughan indicated today that he was open to moving down and picking extra picks, so there could be a match there. Of course, as Rapoport adds, the Browns have “touched base” with most teams in the top 10.
  • Another pick to keep an eye on is the No. 11 selection, which currently belongs to the Vikings. Rapoport tweets that Minnesota wants ammo to move around in the draft, and points out that the 11th pick is an appealing one because fifth-year option prices decrease outside of the top 10. As such, there may be potential trade partners interested in moving up to that spot.
  • Lawyer Jonathan Simon tells Rapoport (Twitter links) that the DUI case against Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams has been dismissed. According to the paperwork filed in the case, the signs of impairment claimed by the arresting officer were not corroborated on video. The timing of the dismissal is good news for Williams, whose draft stock may have taken a hit if the case had moved forward.
  • Rapoport identifies the Dolphins, Jaguars, and Texans as some teams that may be interested in drafting Georgia running back Todd Gurley (Twitter link).
  • Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips and Mississippi State’s Preston Smith are two defensive linemen who could sneak into the back of the first round on Thursday, tweets Rapoport.

Draft Visits: Strong, Steelers, Lions, Langford

With draft night just eight days away, several teams who are doing research and due diligence on Marcus Mariota are also intrigued by Bryce Petty, tweets Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. While Petty may not be a first-round pick, he could very well be the third signal-caller off the board after Jameis Winston and Mariota, says La Canfora.

The fact that the draft is now right around the corner also means that today is the final day for teams to host pre-draft visits for prospects. While clubs can still conduct private workouts over the next several days, visits have to be completed by tonight. Here are a few updates on the final visits happening around the NFL:

  • Jaelen Strong, WR (Arizona State): Visiting the Texans today, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The team will get a chance to look at his injured wrist.
  • Landon Collins, S (Alabama); Preston Smith, DE (Mississippi State); Dexter McDonald, CB (Kansas); Davis Tull, OLB (UT-Chattanooga): All visiting the Steelers today, per Scott Brown of ESPN.com (Twitter links).
  • Danny Shelton, DT (Washington): Visiting the Lions today, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • La’el Collins, T (LSU); Jamon Brown, T (Louisville): Also visiting the Lions today, tweets Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com.
  • Jeremy Langford, RB (Michigan State): Has had visits with the Colts and Buccaneers in addition to previously-reported visit with Broncos, tweets Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
  • Paul Dawson, LB (TCU): Recently visited the Falcons, after previously having worked out for the club, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
  • John Miller, G (Louisville): Visiting the Saints today, according to Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter).
  • Alani Fua, OLB (BYU): Visiting the Eagles today, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.

West Notes: Bennett, Rams, Waynes

Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett is not expected to be in attendance for the Seahawks’ voluntary workouts, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times writes. Bennett denies that he’s seeking a trade out of Seattle but sources have said he would like the team to redo his contract. Bennett is entering the second year of a four-year deal worth $28.5MM signed last spring. When asked if he’s happy with is deal, the veteran replied: “I can’t really say that, but I mean I don’t know anybody that is happy with the amount of money that they’re making. But at this point, I’m just trying to be a good Seahawk.” Here’s more from the AFC and NFC West..

  • The Rams will host Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes on Tuesday and South Carolina offensive guard A.J. Cann on Wednesday, according to Nick Wagoner of the Post-Dispatch (on Twitter). The Rams pick at No. 10 and they have the opportunity to jump the Vikings at No. 11, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network notes (via Twitter).
  • Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson says that he hopes to play for another 3-5 years, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). The Chiefs could create $5.2MM in cap savings by releasing Johnson, but team chairman Clark Hunt recently said that he expects that the veteran will stay put.
  • In addition to Justin Houston and Eric Berry, Daniel Sorensen and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif were also absent from Chiefs camp due to academics, Paylor tweets.
  • Mississippi State defensive end Preston Smith is in Denver today visiting the Broncos, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (Twitter link). Smith visited the Vikings in Minnesota earlier in April.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.