The Packers have a well-regarded, rather expensive inside linebacker.
But in the absence of Desmond Bishop, they’re going to lean on the former sixth-round pick who’s making near the minimum.
Smith slides into Bishop’s starting slot next to Hawk in the base defense, but will be the only inside linebacker on the field when they go to the dime defense they want to use more this year.
“He’s got good command of the huddle, he moves well and is a physical guy,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of Smith. “He’s got good instinct in there. If they want to run the ball he’s going to show up in the right place.”
The Packers have used Hawk as that lone inside linebacker in dime before, and his salary status (tied for sixth on the roster in annual average, at $6.75 million, per McGinn) makes it seem natural.
But Smith, who’s averaging $535,788 a year, has moved to the fore.
“He’s just a natural born leader,” linebacker Erik Walden said. “You could tell that late last year when he played. He can play, and he has a little thump.”
Capers probably has a soft spot for the Charlotte-native who wears 51, since he’s said before he reminds him a little of Sam Mills (who starred for Capers with the Panthers).
But mostly, the move stands as a bit of an indictment on Hawk, and it makes you wonder what Ted Thompson was thinking giving him a five-year, $33 million deal before the lockout.