ESPN 2025 NFL mock draft has Packers landing perfect Preston Smith replacement

The Packers may need a pass rusher in 2025.
Green Bay Packers, Preston Smith
Green Bay Packers, Preston Smith / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Preston Smith is still a key starter for the Green Bay Packers.

Signing Smith in the first week of 2019 free agency will go down as one of Brian Gutekunst's smartest decisions. Smith has started 79 games across five seasons, offering leadership, strong play against the run and pass, and consistency at a premium position. However, the Packers will have a decision to make in 2025.

Per Spotrac, Smith's cap hit rises to $17.51 million in 2025 and $18.21 million in 2026. He will also turn 33 in the 2025 season.

Green Bay would create almost $8 million in cap space by releasing Smith next offseason. By then, Lukas Van Ness will have two years of NFL experience and be ready to start opposite Rashan Gary in the Packers' defense.

Smith still has at least one more season in Green Bay, but an early 2025 mock draft has Gutekunst planning for a future without the former second-round pick.

Packers land top pass rusher in way-too-early 2025 NFL mock draft

ESPN's Jordan Reid has put together an early 2025 NFL mock draft. The Packers picked 23rd, with the draft order determined by Super Bowl odds. We all know they will be picking 32nd in the 2025 NFL Draft, which will be hosted in Green Bay.

But we'll look past that. Reid has the Packers going edge rusher early by selecting Ohio State's JT Tuimoloau.

Reid notes that the Packers may have a decision with Smith's contract in 2025, which could lead them to drafting a pass rusher in Round 1.

"Tuimoloau likely would have been an early-Day 2 selection had he come out this year," writes Reid. "Fierce against the run, he routinely sets a firm edge, but his consistency as a pass-rusher can still improve."

It's never a bad idea to strengthen the pass rush in the first round. The Packers prioritize premium positions on Day 1 of the draft—six of Brian Gutekunst's nine first-round picks have been used at edge rusher, cornerback, offensive tackle, or quarterback.

Edge rusher should be on the Packers' radar leading up to the 2025 draft, and Tuimoloau is a player to watch.

If Smith isn't back in 2025, Green Bay will still have an excellent starting duo with Gary and Van Ness. Kingsley Enagbare would be the primary backup. However, the Packers would need to add another pass rusher, and likely early in the draft.

Tuimoloau could be the choice.

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