It sure wasn't the big-splash, free agent signing Green Bay's lackluster defense needed.
But Ted Thompson added a much-needed insurance policy to the secondary Friday. According to league sources, safety Anthony Smith signed with the Packers to an undisclosed contract. With Atari Bigby and Nick Collins slated to be free agents after the 2009 season, signing Smith gives the secondary a possible future starter.
Smith comes after spending three years in Pittsburgh and watching the incomparable Troy Polamalu. He also comes well-versed in the defensive system the Packers will be employing under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Plus, he spent his rookie season under Darren Perry, who is now the Packers' safeties coach.
In his three-year career, Smith has flashed superior athletic ability at times and mind-blowing antics at other times. A textbook enigma.
Smith has been a part of the NFL's best defense in Pittsburgh for three seasons — his best year coming in 2007 when he had 69 tackles with two interceptions. Smith's play regressed sharply last season, though, and he became a ghost man. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound safety was demoted out of Pittsburgh's rotation in the secondary — all the way to mere special teams duty. In 14 games he only had nine tackles. He was deactivated throughout the playoffs.
And rather than toy with the restricted free agent, the Super Bowl champs simply let Smith go.
Of course, the safety is most known for his bizarre guarantee before Pittsburgh's game against the unbeaten (and then, immortal) New England Patriots. The soundbite became nationwide fodder...and fuel for a team that needed none.
The Patriots proceeded to burn Smith for two touchdowns in a 34-13 rout.
Smith's unusual stint in Pittsburgh stretched beyond this "come again?" yap. As Packer Report's Bill Huber writes
in this interesting story, Smith had a tumultuous run in Pittsburgh beyond the Patriots "guarantee."
A new scenary could pay dividends for Smith. He'll join Aaron Rouse and Charlie Peprah behind the starters Collins and Bigby. If Bigby is able to return to his '07 form next year, his price tag will inflate — which would make it extremely difficult for Green Bay to retain both starters at this point next year.
Rouse figures to be in the team's future plans also. His physical presence and playmaking is a scary blend. But Rouse is still adapting to the fluidness needed in pro coverage — he played a lot of linebacker in college. Smith should infuse such athleticism into the secondary.
Signing Smith comes a day after safety Mike Adams, who was the first player the Packers entertained this offseason, re-signed with the Browns. Also, restricted free agent Jarrett Bush, a top special teams player who can play cornerback and safety, is visiting with Tennessee, according to the Tennessean.
Meanwhile, defensive end Igor Olshansky, who some insiders thought was the next-best 3-4 defensive end Chris Canty, will replace Canty in Dallas.