Last week, the most surprising move the Green Bay Packers made when they released their inactives list was holding linebacker Jaylon Smith out with a healthy scratch. Smith, who was signed on October 7th after being released by the Dallas Cowboys, played 27 combined snaps defensively for the Packers in Week 6 and 7, almost exclusively as a nickel linebacker next to De’Vondre Campbell while Krys Barnes was the second “starter” in their base 3-4 looks.
Now it appears that Smith’s time in Green Bay is over, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter announced that the team has released him on the day of the NFL’s trade deadline. Last week, with Smith out of the lineup, Barnes took over as the Packers’ second nickel linebacker, leading to Barnes playing over 60 percent of the defense’s snaps for the first time since Week 1.
Ultimately, what might have ended Smith’s run in Green Bay was his inability to contribute on special teams. In the month that he was with the team, he never got on the field for a single special teams snap. Meanwhile, inside linebackers Ty Summers (146 snaps) and Oren Burks (144) lead the team in season-long special teams snaps for the Packers. Rookie Isaiah McDuffie (71) and “starter” Krys Barnes (50) also have been significant contributors on special teams.
It simply wasn’t viable for the Packers to keep six inside linebackers on their roster long-term and special teams put four non-Campbell linebackers ahead of Smith in the pecking order. The Smith signing was low-risk, as he was essentially on a minimum salary while the Cowboys were paying the remainder of his 2021 salary. Unfortunately for both sides, Smith’s run in Green Bay simply never manifested into the redemption story that many wanted.
The open roster spot that Smith’s release freed up could be used for a multitude of scenarios moving forward from the activation of tackle David Bakhtiari and wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling from the injured reserve list to the trading of a player as the trade deadline approaches. Stay tuned as we hopefully get clarity on that situation in the coming hours.