Could Packers Za’Darius Smith be a salary cap casualty? Potential landing spots include Ravens and Chiefs

    Green Bay Packers Za'Darius Smith has a huge cap hit in 2022. Will he be a salary cap casualty? If so, where might he end up?

    Could Packers Za’Darius Smith be a salary cap casualty? Potential landing spots include Ravens and Chiefs

    While everyone is focused on Aaron Rodgers’ future, the Green Bay Packers are likely to lose one of their top defensive players. Pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, an All-Pro in 2019 and 2020 who was sidelined with a back injury last season, will most likely be a cap casualty by the Packers, a team in salary-cap hell.

    Za’Darius Smith’s contract contains a huge cap hit

    Smith is entering the final year of a four-year deal and carries a $27.7 million cap number in 2022. The Packers would gain $15.75 million in cap relief if they cut him. What happens then?

    Several sources tell me Smith would be one of the most sought-after pass rushers in free agency and could come away with the richest contract of any edge rusher.

    The top edge rushers on Pro Football Network’s Top 50 Free Agents include Chandler Jones, Von Miller, Jadeveon Clowney, and Randy Gregory. If Smith hits the open market, he would likely vault near the top of that list.

    Who are the teams most interested at this point?

    Potential landing spots for Smith if he is cut

    I’m told a return to Baltimore, which drafted Smith in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, is a possibility. Yet right now, sources tell me the smart money is on the Kansas City Chiefs, who will go hard after Smith if he’s cut.

    The Chiefs were 29th in the NFL in sacks last season, and the rumor is Frank Clark may get the ax. Plus, there’s still a question as to Melvin Ingram’s future with the team. If one or both are gone, Smith would be a welcome addition.

    What Smith lacks as a run defender, he makes up for exceptional pass-rushing ability. In 2019, he racked up 13.5 sacks, and he followed that up with 12.5 in 2020. If he can return to that form and stay healthy in 2022, he will be worth every penny to whatever team he is on.

    Stay up to date with the latest in NFL free agency

    As the league transitions into free agency, there will be plenty of news and rumors from around the NFL in regard to your favorite team. That includes chatter about players who will be on the move (or not) in free agency. Stay updated and keep track of Pro Football Network’s Top 50 Free Agent Rankings to better understand the free agent market.

    Tony Pauline is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Tony’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @TonyPauline.