Brian Gutekunst was named GM of the Packers on January 8, 2018. He’s made over 100 personnel moves since that time – some good and some bad. I’ve been listing his best moves over the course of the last few weeks. Here’s No. 5:
Less than 24 hours after releasing longtime starting outside linebacker Nick Perry, Gutekunst replaced him with Preston Smith. The free agent signed a deal worth $50 million and was expected to provide the defense with a solid if unspectacular player. The Packers wound up getting a lot more. Along with surprisingly gaudy stats, Smith provided much-needed energy and leadership to a group that had little of both in 2018.
As for those gaudy stats, Smith had seven sacks in his first six games with the Packers. That was totally unexpected considering he averaged only 6 1/4 sacks a season in Washington. And while the 27-year-old cooled off some after that torrid start – 5 1/2 sacks in his final 10 games – he still managed to provide fairly steady pressure (18 hurries). Along with fellow newcomer Za’Darius Smith, the Packers ended last season with arguably the most productive pair of outside linebackers in the entire National Football League.
While it would be great to see Smith put up another 12 1/2 sacks in 2020, it would be just as great to see him play the run better. That part of his game – a prior strength – suffered in his pursuit of sacks. He wasn’t bad vs. the run; he just wasn’t good enough. But that’s the only negative thing to say about Smith’s first season in Green Bay. He earned every penny of his big contract, and those are words every GM loves to hear.
#12 – Sullivan Surpised In Secondary
#11 – Veldheer Saved The Days
#10 – Ervin Provided Positive Returns
#9 – Greene’s Injury Hurt Defense
#8 – Lewis Starred Off The Field
#7 – Amos Delivered As Expected
#6 – Lazard Leapt To Starting Job