Za’Darius Smith Unveils To-Do List

Za'Darius Smith

Za’Darius Smith is happy to be elsewhere — and that elsewhere is not in Minnesota but with the Cleveland Browns.

Sixty-four days before a trade to Cleveland, Smith said goodbye to Vikings fans on Twitter, “I just want to say ‘Thank you!’ to Skol Nation for an amazing season & experience! Thank you to all of my Teammates, Coaches & the entire Minnesota Vikings Organization! ?.”

Za’Darius Smith Unveils To-Do List

Then, a full NFL free agency shook down, plus a draft. Smith remained a Viking until May 12th when Minnesota’s general manager finally pulled the trigger on a deal sending Smith, a 2025 6th-Round pick, and a 2025 7th-Rounder to Cleveland for a 2024 5th-Rounder and a 2025 5th-Rounder.

Smith Unveils
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith wanted out of Minnesota — for some reason — and ultimately got his wish while the Vikings fetched a couple of pick swaps and $10 million in cap savings. And Smith is thrilled to play alongside All-Pro pass rusher Myles Garrett. He told fans Tuesday with a giant smile to boot, “I can’t wait to get started. Rule No. 1 — the first thing we gotta do is take the division. After that, we gonna go to the playoffs, baby.”

So that’s a division title and playoff appearance on his to-do list. Here’s the full video:

Smith’s Browns are predicted to finish in third place inside the AFC North, playing third fiddle to the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, with +350 odds to win the division, according to oddsmakers.

Outcry over
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The former Packer and Raven found his way to the Vikings in March 2022, the team’s big free-agent splash of Adofo-Mensah’s first offseason. The defender played wonderfully during the first half of 2022 — even nibbling at Defensive Player of the Year consideration — but underwent a slowdown between Weeks 11 and 18, at least per sack totals. Smith’s QB pressures remained relatively consistent, but the sacks plummeted. The sack total simply ceased, tallying just 0.5 from Week 11 to Week 18. He produced 10 sacks from Weeks 1 through 10.

Free-agent addition Marcus Davenport from the New Orleans Saints is on tap to play ‘the Za’Darius role’ for the Vikings in 2023. Adofo-Mensah signed Davenport four days after the Smith tweet indicating his days in Minnesota were kaput.

2022 Vikings Betting Odds Tracker: Week 15
Miami Dolphins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) gets sacked by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) during the fourth quarter of an NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Oct. 16, 2022. © JIM RASSOL/THE PALM BEACH POST / USA TODAY NETWORK.

In Cleveland, Smith will fill out this fearsome defensive line:

  • DE: Myles Garrett
  • DT: Dalvin Tomlinson
  • DT: Jordan Elliott
  • DE: Za’Darius Smith

The Browns also employ former Vikings personalities Kevin Stefanski (head coach) and Kellen Mond (QB3) in addition to Smith and the above-listed Tomlinson.

If Smith helps the Browns make good on his win-the-division declaration, it’ll be the first time in 34 years for Cleveland. One must travel back to the Bernie Kosar days for Cleveland’s last division crown, 1989.

Smith will turn 31 in September.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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