Vikings Had Multiple Suitors for Pro Bowler

Vikings Trade out
Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo‐Mensah during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

If you believe the Minnesota Vikings received a raw or underwhelming deal in the trade for pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, it’s time to revise the mindset.

Smith was traded to the Cleveland Browns Friday night, along with a 6th- and 7th-Round pick, for two 5th-Rounders in the Vikings piggybank.

Vikings Had Multiple Suitors for Pro Bowler

The former Viking tweeted a goodbye to the team and its fans on March 9th, and about nine weeks later, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah finally pulled the trigger to grant Smith’s wish.

Had Multiple Suitors
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) celebrates sacking Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers with teammate linebacker D.J. Wonnum during their football game Sunday, September 11, 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Min. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK.

But the Browns weren’t the only team gnawing at the Smith trade sweepstakes. 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.

It is unclear which teams inquired about the 30-year-old.

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Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) celebrates victory at the end of the second half of the NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith was revered for his performance in his first two months as a Viking. He stockpiled 10 sacks in 10 weeks and seemed like a marvelous free-agent addition, even garnering fringe Defensive Player of the Year attention. But after the Vikings wild win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 10, Smith’s sack total simply ceased, tallying just 0.5 from Week 11 to Week 18. Smith was still a QB-pressure machine, but folks apparently don’t care about those if sacks aren’t flying onto box scores.

Soon after the trade to Cleveland, a handful of Vikings fans questioned the trade haul. Pick swaps for a Pro Bowler seemed like minuscule compensation, so some believed the Vikings front office got duped.

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before a wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

To hold that belief Monday morning, one would have to suggest Adofo-Mensah intentionally sabotaged himself and his team by accepting the worst of three trade offers — which is absolute lunacy.

In March, Minnesota signed outside linebacker Marcus Davenport from the New Orleans Saints at a starter’s pricetag, and he’s on deck to start after the Smith trade. New Orleans selected Davenport in the 1st Round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and he’s played 63 games since, starting 32, and tallying 142 total tackles, 60 QB hits, 25 tackles for loss, 21.5 sacks, plus 7 forced fumbles in five seasons. The knocks on his resume are durability and consistency. We shall see if that changes in Minnesota.

In Cleveland, Smith joins his fourth team in nine seasons. The Baltimore Ravens drafted him from Kentucky in 2015. He trekked to the Green Bay Packers in 2019, the Vikings in 2022, and will now likely spend a couple of years with the Browns.

Smith has logged 54.5 career sacks, the 24th-most in the NFL since he turned pro.

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).

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