The Painful Reality for a Legendary Vikings Defender

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are set to play their final home game of the season when they host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.

With that being the final home game of the year, it could be the final home game in a Vikings uniform for a number of players. That includes a legendary Vikings defender who has spent the past 12 years donning a purple jersey. Of course, I am speaking of safety Harrison Smith.

The Painful Reality for a Legendary Vikings Defender

Painful Reality
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith was selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Vikings, and he quickly blossomed into one of the best safeties that the league has ever seen.

He earned the nickname “Hitman” for being a vicious tackler and has recorded 1013 tackles, 45 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, 85 passes defended, 34 interceptions, and 12 forced fumbles. That interception total ranks second-highest among all active players behind only Smith’s former Vikings teammate, Patrick Peterson (36).

Smith almost single-handedly saved the Vikings season back in Week 4 when he recorded three sacks against the Carolina Panthers and forced a fumble, which D.J. Wonnum scooped up and scored to give Minnesota a lead.

1 Viking Significantly More
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, with Smith about to suit up for his 175th regular season game in a Vikings uniform, his time in Minnesota could be coming to an end. A big reason behind that, much like how we saw Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen leave the team last offseason, is his contract.

Per Over the Cap, Smith carries a whopping $19.2 million cap hit in 2024 as well as a $22 million cap hit in 2025. His 2024 and 2025 totals are the fourth-highest among all NFL safeties as he enters his age-35 and age-36 seasons.

Meanwhile, the Vikings would be able to save right around $11.384 million of that 2024 cap hit if they were to cut him in the spring. This would also ensure that they save all of the money going Smith’s way in 2025 (again, per Over the Cap).

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

For a Vikings team that is yet to give either of Christian Darrisaw or Justin Jefferson new long-term contract extensions, they need as much cash as they can possibly scrape together to ensure these players are in purple jerseys for years to come.

Currently, the Vikings are slated to have right around $37.3 million in cap space for next season, and that number would come up to the area of $48.7 million if they cut Smith. They would also jump over $161 million in salary cap space for 2025 (the first year that Jefferson’s eventual extension would kick in).

Of course, there is the possibility that Smith takes another pay cut to remain in a Vikings uniform next season as he did this past offseason. However, with emerging players like Camryn Bynum and Josh Metellus, Minnesota may have found a new era at the safety position.

The NFL is a painful business, and with a boatload of Minnesota’s players set to hit free agency next spring, this is inevitably the final Vikings home game that a number of those free agents will ever play. Smith may be among that list this time around.

If it is so, it’s been a heck of a career for The Hitman.

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.

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