Vikings Pro Bowler Listed as ‘Flop’ Candidate

An Unexpected New
Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebackers Za'Darius Smith (left) and Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

If you were enthused by the Minnesota Vikings free-agent acquisition of Za’Darius Smith in March, Bleacher Report does not share your zeal.

Kristopher Knox from Bleacher Report nominated seven NFLers with “flop” potential in 2022, and Vikings EDGE rusher Za’Darius Smith was among the candidates.

Smith signed a three-year, $42 million incentive-laden deal with the Vikings in March.

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Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Knox’s skepticism notwithstanding, Minnesota plans to pair Smith with All-Pro EDGE rusher Danielle Hunter to inspire quarterback terror on Sundays. On its surface, the strategy checks out as Smith and Hunter are fearsome pass rushers — when healthy. The downside of the tandem is risk. Smith and Hunter have missed a combined 63% of football games since the start of 2020.

And that’s Bleacher Report’s main grievance with Smith-to-Vikings. Knox elaborated, “[…] it’s hard to envision Smith returning to his double-digit-sack form after appearing in only two games since the end of the 2020 season. He’ll turn 30 in September, and back surgeries aren’t exactly minor procedures.”

With the Packers in 2019 and 2020, Smith ranked third in the NFL in sacks (26.0), trailing only Shaquil Barrett and T.J. Watt. But he only played in one game last season.

Knox continued on the flop prediction, “This isn’t to say that Smith won’t be a defensive asset in Minnesota. However, fans expecting him to log 12-plus sacks per season, as he did in 2019 and 2020, will be disappointed.”

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Jan 22, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Don’t tell Smith about the flop-fodder, though. He’s gun-ablaze about getting his hands on old teammates when the Vikings host the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. Smith told Rich Eisen in July, “I can’t wait to get a chance to face them the first game and see that look on Aaron Rodgers’ face when he sees me on the other side of the ball. It’s going to be a, It’s good to see you again, but now, it’s not at practice.”

Other flops forecasted by Knox? Justin Fields (Bears), Christian Watson (Packers), and Daniel Jones (Giants), among others.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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