Ex-Packers pass-rusher Za'Darius Smith backs out of $35 million deal with Ravens

Za'Darius Smith remains a free agent after his release by the Green Bay Packers.

The Pro Bowl pass rusher had been previously reported on Wednesday to be signing a four-year, $35 million deal with his old Baltimore Ravens team, but NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that he would not be signing the contract and remains a free agent.

Smith was cut by the Packers on Monday to free up $15.3 million in salary cap space.

In his first two seasons with the Packers, Smith was among the most prolific pass-rushers in the NFL. His 26 sacks ranked fourth in the NFL in that span, behind only T.J. Watt, Shaquil Barrett and Aaron Donald. He also posted 107 tackles, 60 QB hits, 29 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles, earning him Pro Bowl honors in both seasons and second-team All-Pro honors in 2020.

The strong run ended in 2021, however, as Smith missed nearly the entire season with a back injury that required surgery. He appeared in only one regular-season game and one playoff game.

Not the first NFL free agent deal to fall through this offseason

This offseason has seen more than usual players backing out of deals, as we've already seen pass-rusher Randy Gregory turn away from the Dallas Cowboys to sign with the Denver Broncos and running back J.D. McKissic stay with the Washington Commanders after previously agreeing to a deal with the Buffalo Bills.

It's unclear what led to the change of heart in Smith's case, though that back injury could have played a role. The Ravens have had a sizable deal with a defensive lineman fall through due to a failed physical before.

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 22: Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith (55) celebrates his sack during the NFC Divisional playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field on January 22, 2022, in Green Bay, WI. (Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Za'Darius Smith is not headed back to Baltimore. (Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ravens have add eventful offseason

The addition of Smith, who played the first four seasons of his NFL career in Baltimore, appeared to address a big need for the Ravens, who wanted to pair him with Odafe Oweh on the edge and bolster a pass rush that has struggled in recent years.

Instead, they're back to the drawing board. Fortunately they still have their five-year, $70 million deal with former New Orleans Saints free safety Marcus Williams, which filled arguably their biggest need of the offseason. Baltimore has also signed former New York Jets offensive tackle Morgan Moses to a three-year, $15-million deal, which could help stabilize the right tackle position for the team and protect quarterback Lamar Jackson.