5:09pm: This may not be a done deal just yet. While the Packers are in discussions, Smith has not informed them of a commitment, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets. Other teams are still pursuing the sixth-year veteran, though Demovsky adds the Packers are the favorites. Still, Smith is believed to want to play in Green Bay, Rapoport adds (on Twitter). That may still be where this is headed, but the process is not finished.
4:32pm: After news of the Packers’ interest in Jaylon Smith surfaced, it appears the linebacker is planning to head to Wisconsin. The Packers and Smith are finalizing a contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
The Giants and Eagles may have had Smith on their radars, according to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, but the former Cowboys defender is expected to land in Green Bay (Twitter link). Smith and Matt LaFleur were both at Notre Dame in 2014, when the former was a sophomore and the latter the Fighting Irish’s quarterbacks coach. LaFleur remains high on the linebacker.
The Packers did win a bit of a bidding war for Smith, but with the Cowboys paying most of his 2021 salary, Rapoport notes this amount to more of a recruiting battle (Twitter link). After spending time in the northern Midwest in college, Smith will head back to Big Ten country. The Cowboys are on the hook for Smith’s $7.2MM 2021 base salary. Despite losing ex-Packer Blake Martinez for the season, the Giants are not believed to have expressed strong interest, Dan Duggan of The Athletic tweets.
Smith made the Pro Bowl in 2019, and his 154 tackles last season finished behind only the Texans’ Zach Cunningham. Still in his age-26 season, Smith has graded as a top-15 linebacker this year, per Pro Football Focus, and should be set to see extensive time on Green Bay’s defense. The Packers have seen mid-offseason addition De’Vondre Campbell deliver thus far; the ex-Falcons and Cardinals starter is averaging 10 tackles per game. Green Bay will have another 2016 draftee join him soon. Campbell went in the 2016 fourth round; Smith — due only to the severe foot injury he suffered in that year’s Fiesta Bowl — lasted until Round 2.
Dallas ended Smith’s five-plus-season tenure Tuesday night, doing so after having added three linebackers — first-rounder Micah Parsons, fourth-rounder Jabril Cox and UFA Keanu Neal — this offseason. Smith played 56% of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps thus far this season, which represents a significant downgrade from his full-time work over the past four years. Leading a linebacking corps that housed injury-prone cogs Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee, Smith has not missed a game since his 2016 injury-redshirt year of sorts.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.