Grade the trade: Proposed deal has Packers getting rid of key defensive leader

Why would the Packers do this? (They wouldn't)
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

The 2023 season was supposed to be somewhat of an evaluation year for the Green Bay Packers. After the trade of Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets, it felt like the organization was going to live with whatever the results were from the first year of the Jordan Love era and adjust accordingly in the 2024 offseason.

To their surprise, Love ended up finishing second in the NFL in passing touchdowns and already looks like one of the bright young stars at the quarterback position.

As a result, the Packers now find themselves in a new competitive window after making the playoffs and not only beating the Cowboys on the road but also taking the 49ers to the brink of elimination.

Needless to say, the Packers aren't really in a position to be selling off top veteran players via trade now that the offseason dust has settled.

Bleacher Report believes Packers should trade Preston Smith

But that's exactly what Bleacher Report is suggesting.

"For starters, yes, Smith is productive—the 31-year-old has at least eight sacks in four of the past five seasons. But he's not a game-wrecker—Smith's lone season with double-digit sacks came in 2019. He also carries a cap hit north of $14 million this year and $17.5 million in 2025 and 2026.

That's a lot of coin for a player who will be 32 in November.

It's not like the Packers don't have a replacement for Smith, either. Green Bay used the 13th overall pick on Iowa edge-rusher Lukas Van Ness, who tallied four sacks in just 365 snaps as a rookie—a sack-to-snap ratio almost identical to Smith's..."

Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report

The argument of moving on from Preston Smith for financial reasons expired much earlier in the offseason. The Packers made plenty of other arrangements on the salary books to make sure they could keep Smith around, not so they could just eventually get rid of him to the first team willing to give them a Day 3 draft pick.

Not only that, but the Packers need to keep the floor high while Lukas Van Ness continues to develop. He was raw coming out of Iowa where he wasn't even a full-time "starter." The Packers knew that coming in, and until Van Ness does more with an increased workload, they can't just get rid of the guy who's keeping the floor high at that position opposite Rashan Gary.

The Packers' competitive window matters more than minimal salary cap savings, a mediocre draft pick, or even the increased snaps for Lukas Van Ness. They got rid of guys like De'Vondre Campbell who weren't playing up to their contract. Even Aaron Jones, who was hurt most of last season. The Packers made the tough financial calls so they could keep Smith around.

The double-digit sack argument is a tired one at this point because Smith has proven his worth in terms of overall pressures, hurries, quarterback hits, etc. Sacks are not the only way to measure pass rush productivity, and Smith is a very productive pass rusher.

Even if the Packers see his play diminish in 2024, it's worth it to keep Smith around and make sure they have some veteran leadership on one of the youngest rosters in the NFL.

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