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4 best Za’Darius Smith landing spots in 2022

Matt Johnson
Za'Darius SMith
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Za’Darius Smith is poised to hit NFL free agency, poised to become one of the biggest NFL cap casualties in 2022. Even after an injury-marred season, the Pro Bowl edge rusher is going to attract plenty of interest this offseason.

Smith opened training camp in 2021 on the non-football injury list thanks to a back injury. He played 16 snaps in Week 1 before experiencing a setback, later undergoing surgery. The Green Bay Packers got their All-Pro pass rusher back for the Divisional Round, but his return wasn’t enough.

Because of Green Bay’s cap issues, releasing Smith became inevitable. Thanks to development from Rashan Gary and improvement from Preston Smith, releasing Za’Darius Smith and creating $15 million in cap space became the only logical outcome.

With that in mind, let’s examine the best Za’Darius Smith landing spots this offseason.

Za’Darius Smith returns to Baltimore Ravens

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens
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While Smith became a star in Green Bay, his NFL career started with the Baltimore Ravens. Selected 122nd overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, the 6-foot-4 edge rusher learned from some of the best NFL coaches. He performed well as a rotational player then broke out with 8.5 sacks in 2018.

Baltimore would welcome Smith back in 2022, players even hinted at it on Twitter. He’s a much better player than the last time he suited up in a Ravens uniform and would provide a huge boost for a team that finished with the ninth-worst pressure rate (23%) in the NFL this past season.

Kansas City Chiefs bolster pass rush

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Prepared to move on from Frank Clark and facing the possibility of losing Melvin Ingram, edge rusher becomes the most glaring need for the Kansas City Chiefs. Keep in mind, this defense finished with the fourth-fewest sacks (31) during the regular season.

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Smith is an ideal option for Kansas City due to a variety of factors. First, the 29-year-old likely wants to win that first Super Bowl ring in his NFL career and teaming up with Patrick Mahomes offers a fantastic path towards that goal. Second, the Chiefs could offer a one-year deal with reachable incentives, allowing Smith to compete this year and cash in next year after a healthy season.

Denver Broncos improver Super Bowl hopes

NFL: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are prioritizing Von Miller right now, but he seems to be very interested in a return with the Los Angeles Rams. Considering the mutual desire for that to happen, it would be wise for Denver to consider secondary plans. While the Broncos lost out on Aaron Rodgers, his return to the Packers makes Smith available.

  • Za’Darius Smith stats (Green Bay Packers): 60 quarterback hits, 29 TFLs, 26 sacks in 33 games

Nathaniel Hackett is very familiar with the kind of havoc Smith creates in an opponent’s backfield. He also knows that for the Broncos to compete for the AFC West in 2022, they need to constantly pressure Mahomes and Justin Herbert. Smith does that better than almost anyone available this offseason and Denver’s cap space also means it can pay him handsomely for it.

Related: 2022 NFL Power Rankings – Outlook for all 32 teams entering summer

New York Jets address big need on defense

NFL: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

History is something we must always consider, especially when it still might have an influence on outcomes in 2022. Za’Darius Smith talked about his free agency in 2019, revealing that it came down to a bidding war between the Packers and New York Jets.

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Fast forward to March 2022, New York still needs that No.1 edge rusher. Furthermore, head coach Robert Saleh needs an impact defender who plays with intensity and can mentor some young defensive linemen and outside linebackers. Smith would provide immediate help for a team that desperately needs it. Plus, the Jets have a lot of money to spend.