Thursday Thoughts: Z’s Future

I lost interest in Hard Knocks years ago and watching Jerry Jones preen in front of the camera sure ain’t gonna get me to tune in this summer. But you know what might? Mike McCarthy talking candidly about how Aaron Rodgers made his life a living hell during the 2018 season. Here are three more Packers-related thoughts that went through my mind recently:

1) With a salary cap number of over $28 million in 2022, the Packers will either have to extend or release two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith by the middle of next March. And while the thought of moving on from a player who has recorded 26 sacks in the past two seasons might seem crazy, is it really? Smith turns 29 in September, and he’s been listed on the injury report for 17 of his 36 games in Green Bay, including 11 of 18 in 2020. While he didn’t miss any of those contests, he was slowed in some and left a number of others early. And he’s currently on the Non-Football Injury list (back). As productive as Smith has been since signing as a free agent in 2019, GM Brian Gutekunst will still have to decide whether it’s worth giving the former Kentucky star a long-term contract worth at least $20M per year, especially if those years begin with Jordan Love and not Rodgers at quarterback.

2) Speaking of contracts, give Davante Adams a lot of credit. The first-team All-Pro wide receiver could’ve reported to training camp on time to avoid being fined $50,000 a day and then not participated in any practices until he got a new deal. That’s exactly what a number of veteran players are currently doing, including Seattle safety Jamal Adams and Pittsburgh’s outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Like Adams, both stars are in the final year of their contracts. I have to believe Gutekunst is appreciative, especially with all the noise surrounding Rodgers. I also have to believe an extension is coming sooner rather than later. The team appears to want to get something done, and so does the player. At least in Green Bay, that almost always results in something eventually getting done.

3) It didn’t seem very likely when he was missing more kicks than Charlie Brown during the 2013 season and then had to fend off multiple challengers for his job the following summer, but Mason Crosby is about to begin his 15th season with the Packers. In the history of the National Football League, only a pair of kickers spent more seasons with the same team to start their career (Detroit’s Jason Hanson and the Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski). If that’s not impressive enough, try this one on for size – Crosby is connecting on 83% of his field goals since turning 30 in 2014. Before then, his accuracy was 73%. Heck, at this rate, the former Colorado star might not miss a kick in his 40s.

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POLL: Which of the following 2022 free agents should be GM Brian Gutekunst's top priority to extend?

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  1. What happens with Z is going to be interesting. Really thought he would be extended this past offseason. Obviously that didn’t happen.

    Crosby? Wow. I was honestly ready to move on 7 years ago. He’s only gotten better and better. Favre-Rodgers was an impressive transition, but going from Longwell to Crosby is a pretty good one, too.

  2. There are so many variables in a Z extension. Does Rashan Gary have a breakout season? Is Davante Adams resigned? Is Rodgers back in 2022? There won’t be money for both Z and Adams along with a Rodgers extension. And Rodgers won’t even consider returning with out Adams especially after the drama to get Cobb. They’re going to be some tough cuts come March. As far as Mason Crosby, 2013 was a lifetime ago. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed in the decision to cut him. Finding a good kicker, especially one that can kick outside in the winter is more difficult than you think.


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Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.