News & Analysis

The Green Bay Packers strengthen their defense, sign Adrian Amos, Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith to deals

By Michael Renner
Mar 12, 2019
Green Bay Packers Preston Smith Za'Darius Smith Adrian Amos

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Oct 9, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears safety Adrian Amos (38) reacts during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. The Vikings won 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers were the story of the morning on Day 2 of the legal tampering period. Not only did they weaken the division rival Chicago Bears with the addition of Adrian Amos, but they also beefed up their edge rush in a monstrous way by signing Za’Darius Smith from the Ravens and Preston Smith from the Redskins. With a mediocre $35 million in cap space heading into the offseason, the Packers made improving their defense a priority and completely transformed an inconsistent unit from 2018.

The headliner for the Packers is safety Adrian Amos. Not only does he revamp arguably the weakest position on Green Bay’s defense from a season ago, but he also comes at the expense of the NFC North winners. Amos lives up to the definition of the position, and he’s about as safe as it gets in the NFL. Amos had the third-lowest downgrade rate among all starting safeties in the league last year, and he’s produced a top-10 coverage grade in each of the past two seasons. Compared to the Packers’ safety group last year, a group that didn’t have a player with a coverage grade over 62.2, Amos represents a massive upgrade.

The Packers followed that up with not one, but two pass rushers to add to what was one of the league’s least effective edge groups last year. Green Bay’s edge group of Clay Matthews, Kyler Fackrell, Reggie Gilbert, and Nick Perry combined for a paltry 87 total pressures in 2018 on 1,028 pass-rushes. Preston and Za’Darius Smith combined for 113 on 926 pass-rushing snaps. That’s a considerable upgrade, even if it didn’t come cheap. Preston was solely a right outside linebacker a season ago, doing much of his damage against left tackles, whereas Za’Darius was far more of a chess piece. In fact, his best rushes came against guards on the interior. At 275 pounds, Za’Darius should offer some positional versatility to the Packers’ hybrid fronts.

It was a banner day in Green Bay, the likes of which Packers fans haven’t seen in decades. As important as all the upgrades are, they also will benefit the team come draft day. They’ve addressed by far the biggest needs on the roster and put themselves in a position where picks 12 and 30 in the first round can simply be the best available players on their board.

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