How Important Is Harrison Smith in 2023?

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) warms up before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings are going through a significant amount of change this offseason, and the vast majority of it comes on the defensive side of the ball. With Harrison Smith returning for Kevin O’Connell this season, how important is his impact?

Set to make something like $19 million in 2023, veteran safety Harrison Smith took a pay cut worth roughly half his original number. Wanting to stay in Minnesota, with the franchise that drafted him, and looking to play under Brian Flores, it was an incredibly selfless decision. Knowing that the Vikings needed ways to get salary cap compliant, Smith saw his own number as an avenue to help while staying in the fold.

How Important Is Harrison Smith in 2023?

First and foremost, it can’t be overstated how impressive the move from Smith was. Careers in the NFL are often not long-lasting, and on a weekly basis, players are putting their bodies on the line for the franchise. Maximizing your earning potential at every possible opportunity is something that each individual seeks to do. Smith clearly weighed options of going elsewhere, and while the market may not have been much above his new number, he chose a plan that satisfied all parties involved.

Is Harrison Smith
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) warms up before the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Now that he will be back for 2023, it cannot be overstated how vital Smith’s presence will be for Minnesota. O’Connell brought in Flores after firing former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. The Vikings defense was terrible last season, and while there will be new faces in the year ahead, it won’t represent a complete overhaul. That makes it imperative for Flores to coach and develop the talent at his disposal. Having a veteran leader on the field like Smith can help to accelerate that process.

3 Huge Vikings Items
Jan 5, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) catches a pass for a touchdown against Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith. Mandatory Credit: Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports.

For years Smith has been among the leaders on Minnesota’s defense. That will take on an even larger importance this season as veteran Eric Kendricks is gone from the linebacker corps. Smith will hopefully have extended run alongside 2022 draft pick Lewis Cine, and the idea would be for the youngster to learn from a future Hall of Famer. Smith can also quarterback a defense that will be relatively green at the linebacker and cornerback positions. As good as Flores is from a coordinator standpoint, having a field general like Smith should do wonders.

It’s still difficult to see how the Vikings take a substantial step forward in 2023 defensively, but if they do so, you can bet Smith will have his influence as part of the process. Flores will do everything he can to bring more consistency every week, but the reality is that this team will be looking to keep regression at bay all year.

The Hitman Shall Return
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) runs out onto the field at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Bringing back Smith at anything close to his initial number wasn’t going to happen, but getting it done where it landed is a massive win for the organization. Smith will be a Ring of Honor inductee someday, and how much he can impact this group will do wonders for the legend of his leadership.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.