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Report: Ex-Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Signed with Packers over Panthers, WFT

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVOctober 10, 2021

AP Photo/Matt Patterson

Before signing with the Green Bay Packers, linebacker Jaylon Smith also reportedly had "mutual interest" with the Carolina Panthers and Washington Football Team, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Smith was surprisingly released by the Dallas Cowboys last week when he was into just the third year of a five-year, $64 million extension. 

The 26-year-old was still in high demand around the NFL, with Carolina reportedly making a push even after adding cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Smith still decided to sign with the Packers on a one-year deal.

Per Schefter, the decision came down to the player's relationship with head coach Matt LaFleur.

LaFleur spent one season as a quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame in 2014, overlapping with Smith during his time with the Fighting Irish (2015-17). The coach spoke about their time together before signing the linebacker:

"I go back a long time with Jaylon. I've always had a lot of respect for him, not only as a football player but as a man. He was one of my favorites when I was at Notre Dame. I just think a veteran guy who's played at a really high level and just can bring kind of a mentality and leadership to our defense."

Smith has been inconsistent in coverage in recent seasons, but he earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2019 and set a career high with 154 tackles in 2020, second-most in the NFL.

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The Packers will hope he can help solidify a defense that ranks sixth in yards allowed but just 19th in points allowed so far in 2021.

Carolina, meanwhile, has the No. 3 defense in the NFL through four weeks but is still clearly looking for ways to upgrade.    

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