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Saturday, March 7, 2009
Smith joins Packers secondary

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

The Green Bay Packers have made their first foray into free agency, signing former Pittsburgh safety Anthony Smith.

Once regarded as a future star in Pittsburgh, Smith went from an important member of the team's secondary in 2007 to an afterthought in 2008. As a result, the Steelers did not offer Smith, a pending restricted free agent, a contract tender. A tender would have given the Steelers a right of first refusal. Instead, Smith became an unrestricted free agent.

A three-year veteran, Smith started 10 games in 2007, when Ryan Clark was injured. But he did not start a game last season, and appeared in 14 contests, mostly on special teams. After appearing in nearly 85 percent of the Steelers' defensive snaps in 2007, Smith participated in only about 5 percent of the snaps last season.

A former Syracuse standout, Smith has played in 46 games and started 14 of them. He has 23 tackles, four interceptions, and nine passes defensed. Last year, however, Smith had only four tackles from scrimmage.

In signing Smith, Green Bay officials may be looking down the road, with current starting safeties Nick Collins and Arari Bigby both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the 2009 season.

Smith gained some notoriety in 2007, when he "guaranteed" a victory over then-undefeated New England. The Patriots won that game at Gillette Stadium, 34-13, with quarterback Tom Brady seemingly targeting Smith at times and beating him for two touchdown passes.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.