Za’Darius Trade Was Actually a Financial Win for Vikings

Smith the Subject
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings traded Za’Darius Smith, a 2025 6th-Round pick, and a 2025 7th-Round pick to the Cleveland Browns for a 2024 5th-Rounder and 2025 5th-Rounder on May 12th, and the deal was finalized Tuesday.

Za’Darius Trade Was Actually a Financial Win for Vikings

Late Friday, this curious little nugget was dropped into the discourse, sending Vikings fans who already lamented the trade into a full-blown I told you so. The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling tweeted after the trade, “The Vikings are picking up some of Za’Darius Smith’s salary for this season. The Browns had around $7.5 million of 2023 cap space as of today, per NFLPA records.”

Well, the fear of ‘picking up some of the salary’ was a nothingburger — to the tune of $1.1 million. The Vikings still saved about $10 million in cap space that can be used on a free agent(s) this summer or saved for a rainy day in 2024.

Incomplete
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

ESPN’s Field Yates tweeted Tuesday, “In the reworked deal for Za’Darius Smith to facilitate the trade from Minnesota to Cleveland: The Vikings eat $1.177M in the form of signing bonus. The Browns adjust Smith’s cap charge down to $3.032M in 2023. Smith’s upside in 2023 is up to almost $13M in cash.”

So, the panic was all for nil — go figure — as the Vikings still got a couple of draft picks for a player who refused to play in Minnesota, about $10 million in cap savings, and a firm nod to Marcus Davenport as a starter this autumn. Minnesota signed Davenport, an EDGE rusher, four days after Smtih tweeted this goodbye, “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! ?.”

Financial win
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

The wording about Minnesota eating Smith’s salary last weekend suggested Adofo-Mensah could do something unholy, like absorb all or half of his 2023 tab. And that was false. In the end, the Vikings offloading of Smith was a standard NFL trade, granting a little more leeway to the Browns — Adofo-Mensah’s former employer — to pull off the deal.

And according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, two other anonymous suitor teams wanted Smith. Fowler tweeted Friday, “Cleveland combed pass-rush market, including free agency. Found Za’Darius Smith a strong fit. Smith had two other suitors but found a chance to play opposite Myles Garrett appealing.”

Strange Name Becomes
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

The two other suitors for Smith probably didn’t offer two 5th-Rounders, and to make the deal with Cleveland work, Adofo-Mensah may have needed to throw the $1.1 million bone Andrew Berry’s way. It’s business.

The Vikings now have approximately $11 million in cap space, which can balloon to around $22 million if running back Dalvin Cook is traded after June 1st — a transaction expected by many fans.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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