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NFL.com Mock Draft: Packers Add to Pass Rush

While Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst left the door open for keeping Za'Darius Smith, chances are they will need an outside linebacker.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – With a cap charge of a whopping $27.66 million for 2022, Za’Darius Smith seems like a long shot to return to the Green Bay Packers, though general manager Brian Gutekunst left that door open just a sliver.

“He could be” back, Gutekunst said on Wednesday. “I think we’re going to have to do something there. That (cap) number is pretty high. It was disappointing we weren’t able to get him out there more this year with the injury but, obviously, you guys know how impactful he is out there as a pass rusher. So, we’ll see. It’s one of those things, there’s going to be some tough choices to make as we move forward. That’s one we’re going to have to look at.”

If the Packers release Smith, which would lop $15.28 million off Green Bay’s salary-cap overage, they’d be in the market for an outside linebacker. The starting tandem of Rashan Gary and Preston Smith would be a good starting point, but backups Jonathan Garvin and Tipa Galeai combined to contribute 2.5 sacks and 2.0 tackles for losses in about 550 snaps as the primary backups last season.

In his latest mock draft, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah sent Minnesota’s Boye Mafe to Green Bay with the 28th selection.

“The Packers love raw, explosive edge rushers. Rashan Gary has steadily improved in his three NFL seasons. Mafe is a similar player,” Jeremiah wrote.

Mafe was a breakout player as a senior with seven sacks and 10 tackles for losses. At the Senior Bowl, he was the National Team’s player of the game.

His mom died of cancer in 2018 before he played in his first collegiate game. Before each game, he pays tribute to her. As detailed in the Pioneer Press:

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Wherever he finds it, Mafe will use American Sign Language to express, “I love you” and “mom,” and the Hopkins native will share another message to Bola, who passed away from pancreatic cancer on Mother’s Day 2018.

I know you are watching over me.

I know I’m going to go out there and perform for you.

I miss you every day.

I think about you every day.

Mafe’s father was born in Nigeria. Adeboye means the “king meets with dignity.” Boye spent eighth grade at a boarding school in Nigeria.

“It was very interesting,” he told Pro Football Network. “It was something that, for me, you never really understand it until you look back, and you don’t realize the blessings of it and how beneficial it was to me. In the moment, I was like, ‘Wow this is crazy! I’m leaving everything that I knew and everything I’m comfortable with.’ But, I enjoyed that time, I met new people and made new relationships. I grew up and matured, you learn how to grow up really fast.”