Skip to main content

LaFleur Remembers Jaylon Smith as ‘Complete Package’

New Green Bay Packers linebacker Jaylon Smith has agreed to a one-year, minimum-salary deal with the Green Bay Packers.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Former Pro Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith reportedly received a one-year, minimum-salary contract to join the Green Bay Packers.

For Smith’s level of experience, the minimum contract is $990,000. That is $55,000 for the 18-week season. With 14 weeks remaining in the season, that works out to $770,000 for the former Dallas Cowboys star.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Smith’s relationship with coach Matt LaFleur meant his free-agent decision was “always” going to be joining the Packers after he was released by Dallas this week.

LaFleur was the quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame in 2014, when Smith became one of the top prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft because of his elite athleticism and big-play production.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for him, not only as a football player but as a man,” LaFleur said before Thursday’s practice. “He was one of my favorites when I was at Notre Dame. …

“He’s got a great presence, No. 1. He’s got an infectious personality. He’s a guy that everybody on the team really gravitated to, was a great leader not only by example but vocal, as well. And then he was a pretty damn good player, too. He was the complete package.”

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

USATSI_16837227
Play

Multitasking Samuel Carries 49ers Into Showdown vs. Packers

A midseason change in Deebo Samuel's role has the San Francisco 49ers' offense surging into Saturday night's playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.

USATSI_17445657(1)
Play

Watch: Packers Produce Playoffs Hype Video

The 2-minute video is narrated by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

USATSI_16837174
Play

Improved 49ers Secondary Will Test Rodgers and Co.

As evidenced by its work against Dallas' CeeDee Lamb, the Rams' Odell Beckham and the Titans' Julio Jones, the 49ers' secondary will challenge the Packers' passing game in Saturday's playoff game.

Smith sustained a torn ACL and LCL in Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl game. Because of the likelihood he would miss his rookie season and the potential of nerve damage, Smith fell into the second round, where he was selected by the Cowboys.

Smith made his NFL debut in 2017, playing in 16 games with six starts. Over the next three seasons, Smith became a highly productive piece of the Cowboys’ defense with 121 tackles in 2018, 142 tackles in 2019 and 154 tackles in 2020. He started all 48 games in those three seasons with eight sacks, 17 tackles for losses, four forced fumbles and 18 passes defensed.

While LaFleur said this acquisition was spearheaded by general manager Brian Gutekunst’s personnel department, he’s happy to be alongside Smith again.

When the Packers beat the Cowboys in 2019, Smith had nine tackles, one sack and one pass defensed. He earned Pro Bowl honors that season and recorded a career-high 154 tackles last season. However, the Cowboys invested heavily in the position this past offseason, signing Keanu Neal in free agency and using their first-round pick on Micah Parsons. With declining play, the Cowboys released him to escape the remainder of his five-year, $64 million contract extension.

LaFleur didn’t think Smith would play this week but, once he gets a handle on Joe Barry’s defense, that he’d move into the starting lineup alongside standout De’Vondre Campbell.

“I just think a veteran guy who’s played at a really high level and just can bring kind of a mentality and leadership to our defense,” LaFleur said. “He’s going to be behind quite a bit, being the fact we’re heading to Week 5 and it’s a totally different system, so there’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be put in, not only from him but from our coaching staff to get him up to speed, but we’ll let him kind of come in here and compete to play.”

Smith did not sign in time for practice, but the deal is official. Green Bay also placed outside linebacker Chauncey Rivers on injured reserve.