1 Former Viking Is Thriving With His New Team

Aug 11, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Za'Darius Smith (99) raises his arms to pump up the crowd during the first quarter against the Washington Commanders at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings let a number of veteran players go this offseason.

While a few of these names have found struggles with their new teams, there is 1 former Viking who is absolutely thriving in his new role.

1 Former Viking Is Thriving with His New Team

1 Former Viking
Aug 17, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Za’Darius Smith (99) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

That former Viking is Za’Darius Smith, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns back in May. This move came after Smith requested to be moved from Minnesota after just one season. In return, the Vikings received a pair of fifth-round picks.

Through two weeks, the trade looks to be a great one for the Browns. Smith has been a terror to opposing offenses, despite a lack of statistics to show for it. Sure, the pass-rusher is yet to record a sack and only has a single tackle for loss to his name.

However, Smith also has recorded 7 QB pressures and 4 QB hits in the first two games of the 2023 season. His QB hits total is tied for third in the league, behind only Odafe Oweh and T.J. Watt, according to PFF. Smith’s defensive grade of 89.9 is tied for sixth among EDGEs to begin the year.

Outcry over
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) celebrates after a sack in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

In Smith’s sole season with the Vikings, he produced 15 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. 9.5 of these sacks came in the first nine games of the season, but he continuously put pressure on opposing quarterbacks throughout the year.

According to PFF, Smith finished the 2022 season with 80 pressures and had multiple in 15 of 17 games for the Vikings. His 80 pressures ranked sixth in the NFL last season.

With Smith continuing to find success with the Browns, one can only imagine what the Vikings pass-rush would look like if he remained in Minnesota for 2023. Danielle Hunter is tied for the league-lead in sacks through two weeks, and Ivan Pace has been terrific in the middle of the Vikings defense.

Sep 10, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass under pressure from Cleveland Browns defensive end Za’Darius Smith (99) during the first half at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports.

Regardless, it is great to see Smith finding continued success in the NFL. Hopefully, he is able to keep up his production in Cleveland and land one more big check when his current contract ends.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.