GREEN BAY – The Packers have made the free-agent signing of former Ravens outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith official.
Here are five things to know about him.
1. He led the league’s top defense in sacks.
The Ravens ranked first in the league in yards allowed and second in points allowed a year ago, and the 6-foot-4, 272-pound Smith was their sack leader with 8½, a career-best total after posting a total of 10 sacks through his first three seasons.
2. The Packers view him as an ascending player.
Smith’s breakout 2018 campaign came when he started just half of Baltimore’s games as an edge rusher, so the Packers clearly view him as a player on the rise whose best days are still to come. Smith recorded those 8½ sacks in just 691 snaps.
3. He gets to the quarterback pretty consistently.
Pro Football Focus credited Smith in 2018 with 60 total pressures, which is a combination of sacks, hits and hurries. That was the most in the league by any player with less than 700 snaps, with the next-best total being Cameron Wake’s 54 in 517 snaps. He tallied five or more pressures in a game six times last season.
4. Despite recording more sacks than the Ravens last year, the Packers didn’t pressure the QB like that.
Green Bay’s 44 sacks a year ago topped Baltimore by one, but if you go by PFF’s pressure numbers, the contrast is stark. Smith’s 60 total pressures would have far and away led the Packers in 2018, when the top numbers were turned in by interior rushers Kenny Clark (46) and Mike Daniels (32), a duo that missed a combined nine games. Green Bay’s leader on the edge was Clay Matthews, with 30.
5. He took a long road to get to this point.
It’s not just that Smith was a fourth-round draft pick in 2015. After just one season of high school football as a senior, he played two years at East Mississippi Community College before moving on to play two seasons at Kentucky. Over those four years, he totaled 22 sacks, and his 8½ last year are his most ever in one season at any level.
Snapshots of newly-signed Green Bay Packers LB Za'Darius Smith