Once Promising Viking Appears to Say Goodbye

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings have 17 free agents set to hit the open market on March 15th, and one popular player appeared to say goodbye via social media this week.

That’s tight end Irv Smith, a playmaker from the University of Alabama selected by the Vikings in Round 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. Smith is a free agent and can probably draw more money in free agency than the Vikings are willing to offer.

Once Promising Viking Appears to Say Goodbye

Smith, 24, posted this photo and caption to Instagram on Monday, “God is the Greatest! Minnesota, I love and thank you.”

Once Promising Viking
Image Courtesy of @swervin_irvin on Instagram.

Including Smith, these are the Vikings free agents on the upcoming offseason docket:

  • Kris Boyd (CB)
  • Garrett Bradbury (C)
  • Blake Brandel (OT)
  • Jonathan Bullard (DL)
  • Andrew DePaola (LS)
  • Ben Ellefson (TE)
  • Bisi Johnson (WR)
  • Greg Joseph (K)
  • Alexander Mattison (RB)
  • Nick Mullens (QB)
  • Patrick Peterson (CB)
  • Austin Schlottman (C)
  • Duke Shelley (CB)
  • Irv Smith (TE)
  • Khyiris Tonga (NT)
  • Chandon Sullivan (CB)
  • Oli Udoh (OT)

Smith has been a part of the Vikings offense for four years but was overshadowed by veteran TE1 Kyle Rudolph in 2019 and 2020 and encountered injuries in 2021 and 2022. Rookie contracts in the NFL outside of the 1st Round last four years, so now is the time when Smith either rejoins the Vikings or heads elsewhere.

Purple Rumor Mill: Who Won't Be Back in 2023, the Belichick Snub, Kirk in Primetime
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Since the start of 2019, Smith has recorded 91 receptions on 126 targets for 858 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. He’s averaged 23.2 receiving yards per game and missed 44% of all Vikings games due to injury. When he plays, Smith has made a difference at times but also experienced a couple of crucial dropped passes.

Smith suffered a high ankle sprain back in October versus the Arizona Cardinals, an injury sidelining him for about two months. Soon after, the Vikings traded for T.J. Hockenson, and the former Detroit Lion — beyond the shadow of a doubt — made the TE1 job his own. Theoretically, Smith could still return to the Vikings, but his Instagram caption, “God is the Greatest! Minnesota, I love and thank you,” assuredly sounds like a farewell.

It Seems Irv Smith May Have Fumbled the Bag
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

According to Spotrac.com, Smith has a calculated yearly value of $10.2 million per season. Minnesota must prioritize re-signing Hockenson for the long haul, a transaction that will likely net the man around $15 million annually. If Spotrac is correct about Smith’s value and the Hockenson extension is coming, the Vikings cannot afford both men.

Too, the Vikings rank near the bottom of the NFL for 2023 cap space, meaning measures will be needed to get underneath the cap and sign impactful free agents. The franchise will already squeeze the penny bank via restructuring, trading, or outright trading expensive veterans, and continuation of the Smith relationship just doesn’t seem feasible.

The Vikings Reunion You
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Teams needing roster help at TE this offseason may include the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, and Washington Commanders. Smith is also from Louisiana, so keep an eye on the New Orleans Saints.

NFL free agency formally begins on March 15th.

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.