6 Packers Defenders on Thin Ice After Jeff Hafley Hiring

With a new defensive coordinator in charge, these 6 Green Bay Packers need to step up their play
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2. Preston Smith, EDGE

One of the toughest parts of football is watching good players get released due to cap constraints. For Preston Smith, that could be a reality this offseason.

A former second-round pick from Mississippi State, Smith signed with Green Bay in 2019 after spending four seasons in Washington. He's been the model of consistency with 41.5 sacks over the past five seasons including a career-high 12 back in 2019. Even this past season, the 31-year-old had eight sacks as he continued to prove he can get after the quarterback.

As good as he's been, the writing might have been on the wall even before the Packers made their move at defensive coordinator. During the 2023 NFL Draft, they used the 13th overall pick on Iowa pass-rusher Lukas Van Ness. The 6-foot-5, 272-pounder wasn't seen as ready to start from day one but his potential was through the roof.

Van Ness did wind up spending his rookie campaign as a rotational player and finished with 24 tackles and four sacks. He was also coming on incredibly strong at the end of the year. Looking ahead, the Packers could decide to make Smith a cap casualty while promoting Van Ness to start across from Rahsan Gary.