In one morning, the Green Bay Packers made three moves to reshape their struggling defense. They agreed to terms with a pair of pass rushers in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, plus safety Adrian Amos, according to league sources.
The deals were finalized on Tuesday and can be signed when the NFL year opens on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. The NFL Network was first to report the Za’Darius Smith and Amos deals.
Packers second-year general manager Brian Gutekunst was expected to be active in free agency, especially to add pass rushers, but this is perhaps even more than expected. They first agreed to a deal with Za’Darius Smith, who led the Ravens with 8.5 sacks last season, and then signed Amos away from divisional rival Chicago to provide help in the secondary. Less than two hours later, they came to a deal with Preston Smith, who has 24.5 sacks in his four seasons with the Redskins.
It’s a boon for second-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who was retained by new coach Matt LaFleur.
The Packers’ additions stood in stark contrast to the Baltimore Ravens‘ losses. C.J. Mosley is expected to sign with the New York Jets, Terrell Suggs is heading to the Arizona Cardinals, and Eric Weddle is joining the Los Angeles Rams after being cut.
Za’Darius Smith, 26, was the sacks leader for the NFL’s No. 1 defense with a career-best 8.5 last season. His 60 quarterback pressures ranked No. 17 in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
A part-time starter, Smith follows the same path as Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee, both of whom posted big sack numbers in their contract years for the Ravens and left for a big contract elsewhere.
A fourth-round pick in 2015, Smith recorded 10 sacks in his first three seasons before breaking out in 2018.
Smith underwent sports hernia surgery following the season, but he is expected to be ready for offseason workouts in the spring.
The intriguing part about Smith is his upside and efficiency. He hit the quarterback on 25 of his 485 pass-rush snaps (5.2 percent), which is more than Kansas City Chiefs pass-rusher Dee Ford (4.7 percent).
Smith produced a career-high three sacks in last season’s 21-0 shutout win at Tennessee, where the Ravens had a team-record 11. But Smith had only three sacks in his final 11 games, including a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
After recording 24.5 sacks in his first four seasons with the Redskins, Preston Smith managed only four in 2018. He was not enough of a playmaker for the Redskins with just four forced fumbles — only one in the past three seasons — and four interceptions.
The 26-year-old is durable, however, starting every game in his first four NFL seasons. He excelled at setting the edge in the running game and would often drop into coverage to help in the passing game. His length — he’s 6-foot-6 with long arms — and athleticism enabled him to become an immediate starter.
The Redskins selected him in the second round (38th overall) of the 2015 draft, using him to replace Brian Orakpo after he left via free agency. Smith finished with eight sacks his rookie season, with five coming in the final three games.
Smith mostly lined up on the right side as the Redskins rotated their outside linebackers more over the past two seasons, but he would occasionally rush from the left or even play in the middle.
Amos, 25, has started 56 of the 60 games he has played in for the Bears since he was selected in the fifth round (142nd overall) of the 2015 draft.
He started all 16 games at safety for the Bears’ No. 3-ranked defense last season, finishing with two interceptions, nine passes defensed, a sack and 73 tackles.
Pro Football Focus ranked Amos as the eighth-best safety in the NFL last season, giving him an overall grade of 82.7.
Green Bay needed safety help. Two years ago, the Packers had a pair of veteran starting safeties, but last offseason they let Morgan Burnett leave in free agency and during the season they traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Washington Redskins for a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft. After the Clinton-Dix trade, they moved veteran cornerback Tramon Williams to safety to finish out the year. Another part-time starter, Kentrell Brice, will become a restricted free agent this week.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and John Keim contributed to this report.