Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus believes that the Falcons should pursue linebacker Za’Darius Smith in free agency this offseason, citing the fact that the Browns will probably be unable to re-sign the edge rusher due to their salary cap issues.
Atlanta doesn’t have a ton of cap space itself heading into the offseason (about $30 million), but it should certainly have enough to bring in a player like Smith.
Smith didn’t have a great year, finishing with just 27 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 16 games, but he is just two seasons removed from a Pro Bowl campaign with the Minnesota Vikings. In 2022, he rattled off 44 tackles, 10 sacks and a forced fumble.
The 31-year-old, who played his collegiate football at the University of Kentucky, was originally selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
He spent the first four years of his career with the Ravens but didn’t really start to establish himself until 2018, when he registered 45 tackles, 8.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Smith then took his talents to the Green Bay Packers, where he proceeded to establish himself as an elite pass rusher in his first season with the club. That year, he racked up 55 tackles, 13.5 sacks and a forced fumble en route to a Pro Bowl appearance. Smith made his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl the following season after posting 52 tackles, 12.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a couple of fumble recoveries.
An injury knocked him out for all but one game in 2021, and that ensuing offseason, Smith signed a one-year deal with the Vikings. He then signed with the Browns last offseason.
The Falcons went just 7-10 this year.