Green Bay Packers' 2019 free-agent signings: Defense gets makeover

A breakdown of the Green Bay Packers' 2019 free-agent signings.

Billy Turner, offensive lineman

The Packers signed Turner to a four-year, $28 million deal. Here's a closer look at the offensive lineman who spent the previous two-plus seasons with the Broncos:

What it means: Turner gives the Packers a versatile lineman who has played everywhere but center in his NFL career, which began in 2014 as a third-round pick of the Dolphins. He started 11 games for the Broncos last season, four at right tackle and seven at right guard, after missing all but one game of the 2017 season because of a hand injury. He made two starts in 2016 (one at left guard and one at left tackle) before the Dolphins released him. Previously, he started 12 games at right guard in 2015. He's athletic enough to play in the zone-blocking scheme that new coach Matt LaFleur plans to employ in the running game.

What's the risk: The Broncos wanted Turner back, but not at the price the Packers paid. He's a bit of a journeyman -- he also spent one week with the Ravens in between his stops with Miami and Denver. He's not an automatic starter at any position, and the Packers might have an opening or two on the line. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is entering the final year of his contract, and the right guard position was a rotation between veteran Byron Bell (who is not under contract), Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick. McCray and Patrick are former undrafted free agents who will be re-signed as exclusive rights free agents.


Za'Darius Smith, outside linebacker

The Packers signed Smith. Per his agents it's a four-year, $66 million deal, with a $20 million signing bonus and $34.5 million due in the first two years. Here's a closer look at the outside linebacker who spent the previous four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens:

What it means: The Packers finally have some pass-rush help on the edge. A source at the NFL combine said GM Brian Gutekunst made it clear to agents that the position was the No. 1 priority to start free agency and all other deals would have to fall in line after that. The 26-year-old Smith, originally a fourth-round pick, led the Ravens, who ranked No. 1 in the NFL in defense last season, with 8.5 sacks and 60 quarterback pressures despite starting only half of their games. The Packers can now release oft-injured Nick Perry before he's due a $4.8 million roster bonus at the end of the week. And if they don't re-sign 32-year-old Clay Matthews, they won't be as thin on the edge, where the only returning player with double-digit sacks is Kyler Fackrell (10.5 sacks last season after just five sacks in his first two years combined).

What's the risk: Injury -- Smith is coming off postseason sports hernia surgery -- and a lack of proven long-term production. Like Fackrell, Smith was a midround pick who had one breakout season. Smith was a part-time starter who had 5.5 sacks as a rookie but then added just 4.5 more the next two seasons before his big year in 2018. Milt Hendrickson, the Packers' new director of football operations, surely vouched for Smith. Hendrickson was part of the personnel department in Baltimore that drafted Smith in 2015.


Adrian Amos, safety

The Packers signed Amos to a four-year, $37 million deal that includes $14 million in the first year and $21 million in the first two years, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Here's a closer look at the safety who spent the previous four seasons with the Chicago Bears:

What it means: The Packers added a second player from one of the NFL's top defenses of 2018. After signing edge rusher Za'Darius Smith away from the Ravens, the NFL's No. 1 defense, Green Bay added a member of the Bears' No. 3-ranked defense. The Packers were so thin at safety last season after they let Morgan Burnett walk in free agency and traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix that they moved veteran cornerback Tramon Williams to safety for the final nine games. Their other starting safeties were Kentrell Brice (10 starts), Josh Jones (five) and Ibraheim Campbell (one). The Packers not only added a much-needed player to their defense, but perhaps they weakened a division rival in the process.

What's the risk: Although he has been a full-time starter since he came into the league as a fifth-round pick in 2015, Amos was the Bears' No. 2 safety behind playmaker Eddie Jackson. Amos has just three career interceptions and three forced fumbles in 60 career regular-season games (56 starts). However, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, last season he was the nearest defender on 41 targets and didn't allow a touchdown. That was the most targets without allowing a touchdown by any safety in the NFL last season.


Preston Smith, outside linebacker

The Packers signed Smith to a four-year, $52 million deal (including a $16 million signing bonus). Here's a closer look at the outside linebacker who spent the previous four seasons with Washington:

What it means: The Packers have a new pass-rushing duo in Smith and former Ravens outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. What was a pass-rush tandem of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry now becomes Smith and Smith. Matthews, age 32, and Perry, 28 combined for 19.5 sacks the past two seasons, while the Smiths both are 26 years old and combined for 25 sacks during the same span. The Packers got younger and perhaps more productive off the edge. They will release Perry before his $4.8 million roster bonus is due later this week, and Matthews, a pending free agent, is not expected to return. The Packers hired former Redskins inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti this offseason. While Olivadotti won't work directly with Preston Smith, he will be able to help defensive coordinator Mike Pettine fit him into the defense.

What's the risk: While Smith has never missed a game in his NFL career -- he's 64-for-64 with 50 starts over the last four years -- his numbers aren't off the charts. He has 24.5 sacks over the last four seasons -- tied for 39th in the NFL in that span -- but he never had more than eight in any one season. It's big money, but the Packers are clearly willing to pay to upgrade their defense rather than standing pat.