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Za’Darius Smith, Adrian Amos to join Green Bay in free agency

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Ryan Wood and Olivia Reiner discuss potential targets for the Packers in free agency.
Olivia Reiner, PackersNews

GREEN BAY – Waiting until the first wave of free agency rolled through the NFL on Monday, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst jumped in with both feet, signing a pair of defensive starters Tuesday.

Baltimore edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and Chicago safety Adrian Amos agreed to terms on contracts with the Packers on Tuesday morning.

Both signings were reported first by NFL Network and the PackersNews.com confirmed Amos’ signing.

Terms of both deals were not revealed.

The Packers are counting on Smith to start at outside linebacker in either Clay Matthews’ or Nick Perry’s spot. Matthews is an unrestricted free agent and the Packers are expected to release Perry later in the week.

Smith, 26, bounced back from a pair of unremarkable seasons to finish with 8½ sacks for the Ravens in a contract year. The 2015 fourth-round selection had 5½ sacks his rookie year but just 4½ the next two.

In 2018, he had a breakout season, leading the Ravens in sacks, quarterback hits (25, including sacks) and finishing second in tackles for loss (10). He finished tied for sixth in tackles.

The Packers need the 6-4, 274-pound Smith to be more than just a pass rusher, although hitting quarterbacks will be his No. 1 duty. At the combine four years ago, he ran an impressive 40-yard dash in 4.83 seconds and benched 225 pounds 23 times.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will have to find out whether Smith can help him at outside linebacker or simply as an edge rusher in nickel situations. Smith was a defensive end in college at Kentucky.

The signing means that Gutekunst doesn’t necessarily have to draft an edge rusher with the No. 12 pick in the 2019 draft. It’s very possible there will be a pass rusher available at that pick and Gutekunst probably wouldn’t pass on him, but he has the option of taking the best player available and waiting until later to take another pass rusher.

In Amos, the Packers are getting a mid-level starter who started all 16 games last year and had 73 tackles, a sack and two interceptions. He also had nine pass break-ups and a forced fumble.

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At the combine in 2015, the 6-foot, 218-pound Amos ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds and registered a 35 1/2 -inch vertical leap.

Amos, a fifth-round pick, played second fiddle to safety Eddie Jackson on the Bears’ outstanding defense. Jackson made more big plays than Amos, who in four years has just three interceptions.

The Packers will expect him to start, but they are still going to have to make another move at the position because they do not have an established ballhawk in the deep middle. It’s possible they’ll move cornerback Josh Jackson to safety, but he would need a lot of training.

It’s unclear whether the Packers have submitted a restricted free agent tender on safety Kentrell Brice, who has battled ankle injuries the last two seasons. Brice would make $2.025 million if the tender is made and so with this signing it’s possible the Packers will take a pass.

Josh Jones, a second-round pick in 2017, remains an option at safety, too. Pettine also could keep cornerback Tramon Williams at safety after the veteran bailed him out last year when injuries struck the position.

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