Packers have a decision to make on Preston Smith’s future

Green Bay Packers, Preston Smith - Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers, Preston Smith - Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

A year ago, the Smith Bros. proved to be one of the best pass-rushing combinations in football. But after a disappointing 2020 season, could Preston Smith have played his final snap for the Green Bay Packers?

The Covid-19 pandemic not only created a very different NFL season, but it will also have a huge impact on the salary cap.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the cap is expected to be around $180-181 million next season, which would be a drop of about $15 million from 2020. That means the Packers will need to clear some cap space in the coming weeks.

After signing a big deal with the Packers in 2019, Smith’s cap hit will rise to $16 million next year, according to Spotrac.

If a team is paying that cap hit, the player needs to be a difference-maker. Smith was exactly that in his first season with the Packers but his production was nowhere near that in 2020. He went from 12 sacks, 23 QB hits, and 34 pressures in 2019 to only four sacks, 11 QB hits, and 16 pressures in 2020.

Now his cap hit is set to rise.

Given Smith’s struggles this past season, along with the development of Rashan Gary, the Packers may decide to move on this offseason. If Green Bay releases Smith, it would still pay a cap hit of $8 million, according to Over The Cap, which is $2 million higher than Smith’s first season with the Packers.

But importantly they would save $8 million in cap space, helping the team get under the cap and possibly even free up some money for free agency.

Losing Smith would hurt the team’s pass-rush depth. Za’Darius Smith and Gary would give the defense two talented starters on the edge but the Packers would almost certainly need to add talent via free agency or the draft.

And what if Smith can bounce back to his 2019 form next season? He’s a talented player and it leads to a tough decision for the Packers.

Should Smith be brought back in 2021?