Thoughts on Packers attempting to trade OLB Preston Smith

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The Green Bay Packers are at least considering the idea of trading veteran outside linebacker Preston Smith. According to Albert Breer of MMQB.com, Smith’s name has been floated in trade talks over the last few weeks.

Here are some thoughts on the Packers attempting to trade Smith:

– It will be a tough sell for the Packers to get a team to take Smith’s contract, especially after such a sharp regression in 2020. He’s due $12 million in 2021, including a $4 million roster bonus due on the third day of the new league year.

– Then again, if there’s a team that thinks Smith’s 2020 season was an anomaly, and in some ways it was, his contract isn’t all that prohibitive. If traded, he’d count $12 million on the cap in 2021 and $12.5 million in 2022. And the team could easily get out of the deal after 2021 if it didn’t work out.

– Trades are always unlikely, and the transaction is probably a little more unlikely this offseason with the cap shrinking. Maybe teams without cap troubles will find it a buyers market. Or maybe teams will just wait out the cap-strapped teams, knowing they’ll have to cut players. It only takes one team to pull the trigger on a trade for Smith, but it won’t be surprising if teams end up waiting for the Packers to cut him.

– Trades aren’t finalized until the start of the new league year, so dealing Smith wouldn’t help the Packers solve their cap issue in the short term. It would provide flexibility in free agency, but a trade wouldn’t assist the Packers in getting under the cap or signing in-house free agents before the new league year. The team still has to shed around $12 million.

– The Packers would eventually clear $8 million by trading Smith. Dealing him would provide some value – likely in draft capital, or maybe a player – for losing him and taking on an $8 million dead cap hit.

– There are two deadlines to watch. Will the Packers release Smith before the start of the new league year on March 17? If not, can the Packers trade Smith before his roster bonus is due on March 19?

– Moving on from Smith has always felt like the most likely outcome, given his cost on the cap, regression in 2020 and the emergence of Rashan Gary. If the Packers can get under the cap before the start of the new league year, trading Smith becomes a really attractive option. But again, it takes two to tango.

– Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst appeared to commit to Smith being back in 2021, but it was a half-hearted endorsement at best. These trade rumors confirm the Packers are exploring all options. Would the Packers really consider having Smith back at his current cap hit ($16 million), especially if they are counting on Gary being a much bigger part of the defense? Doubtful.

– What teams have a need at edge rusher and cap space? The Browns, Jets, Colts, Patriots, Jaguars, Broncos, Ravens and Bengals might all make sense as a trade partner.

– Also, the Giants were viewed as a serious contender for Smith during free agency in 2019. Maybe they’d be interested in sending a draft pick to Green Bay to get him this time around.

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