Outside linebacker Preston Smith won’t return to the team that drafted him.
The Redskins second-round pick in 2015 signed a reported multi-year deal with the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday, the team announced, ending his tenure in Washington.
In his four seasons in Washington, Smith never missed a game, collecting 107 total tackles, 24.5 sacks and four interceptions in 64 contests.
While his young career has been inconsistent – he followed up his eight-sack rookie season with just 4.5 sacks in his second year – his durability and persistent pressure on passers made him a valuable asset on the edge opposite linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
That was evident in 2018, in which he totaled a career-high in tackles despite collecting four sacks. His biggest moment came against the Cowboys at home, when he scooped up a Kerrigan forced fumble and scored a game-changing touchdown.
The Redskins knew it would be tough to bring Smith back and were prepared to let him test free agency.
“He's earned the right to test the market out a bit,” head coach Jay Gruden said in January. “Hopefully we can get something done for him. I think he's still a young, developing player. I think if we're fortunate enough to get him back there are ways to utilize him a little bit more. I think he can play more spots than just outside linebacker and defensive end. I think he can play inside over the center and just do different things in the pass rush that we really haven't asked him to do yet.
“I still think his future is very bright in the National Football League,” Gruden added. “He is young, he is strong, he is long, he is smart. Obviously from a production standpoint, he only had four sacks this year and that's low for a guy like that. But, I think he will get more and more the more he plays."
While at the NFL Combine, Gruden acknowledged that Smith would certainly garner attention, especially for teams in need of veteran pass rushers.
“I think he’ll look at all of his options, and we’d love to have him back for sure, but I don’t know where we are money wise with his agent at this point in time,” Gruden said.
As of this moment, the Redskins will lean on Ryan Anderson and Josh Harvey-Clemons, who will enter their third years with the club, along with Cassanova McKinzy, to fill the void playing opposite of Kerrigan.
In a conversation with Redskins.com last season, Smith expressed his mentality as he approached the final months of his contract with Washington.
“I can’t control the future, I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow…I don’t know what’s going to happen next year, next month, next game,” Smith said. “All I can do is just live day by day and handle what I can control and go out there and give the best I can. Everything will fall in place. Whatever God has in store for me is going be in store for me when it happens, when it’s time for it to come.”