Vikings Pass Rusher among 8 Names in Trade Rumor Mill

Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebackers Danielle Hunter (99) and Za'Darius Smith (55) warm up during training camp at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith said goodbye to Minnesota and Minnesotans two weeks ago today.

Smith¬†tweeted, “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! ūüíú.‚ÄĚ

Vikings Pass Rusher among 8 Names in Trade Rumor Mill

And then that was it. Nothing happened. He wasn’t released by the Vikings, nor was he traded elsewhere. A standstill on Smith’s future with the Vikings has unfolded.

Pass Rusher among 8
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) warms up before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

As of Friday, March 17th, $5 million of Smith’s guaranteed cash solidified against the Vikings books, meaning an outright release is wildly unlikely. That leaves onlookers with trade speculation or envisioning a kumbaya between Smith and the Vikings front office.

Well, The 33rd Team, an NFL think-tank site, believes Smith is in the middle of the trade rumor mill. Nominating Smith and seven others as tradebait, Ari Meirov wrote, “Za’Darius Smith¬†tweeted a goodbye to the¬†Minnesota Vikings¬†a few days before free agency began, which made people think he was released. We found out later he wasn’t and had asked the Vikings to cut him, but they rebuffed that request.”

The Vikings Final Injury Report: Week 11
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) looks on prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

“Smith made the Pro Bowl in his first season with Minnesota and had 44 tackles, 10 sacks, 24 quarterback hits and a forced fumble in 16 games. The Vikings did add¬†Marcus Davenport¬†in free agency, so that could make Smith expendable, but the situation as of now remains unresolved,” Meirov concluded.

Indeed, the Vikings signed Davenport, mentioned by Meirov, who seems to be on deck as Smith’s replacement. Otherwise, Minnesota will end up handsomely paying three EDGE rushers in Smith, Davenport, and Danielle Hunter — which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It would, though, be a bit odd for a cash-strapped team like the Vikings.

Top 5 Free Agents
Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebackers Danielle Hunter (99) and Za’Darius Smith (55) warm up during training camp at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The ex-Green Bay Packer was revered for his performance in his first two months as a Viking. Smith stockpiled 9.5 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 the statsheet.

If Smith is ultimately traded and there is no kumbaya, Minnesota would save $12.16 million and perhaps gain a mid-round draft pick.

Teams that could be interested in Smith included the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, San Franciso 49ers, or Seattle Seahawks based on roster need.

In addition to Smith, Meirov mentioned other NFLers as trade possibilities:

  • Jerry Jeudy (DEN, WR)
  • Ryan Tannehill (TEN, QB)
  • Cedrick Wilson (MIA, WR)
  • Jonah Williams (CIN, OT)
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC, RB)
  • Kevin Byard (TEN, S)
  • Trey Lance (SF, QB)

A Smith trade, if it happens at all, should occur before or during the 2023 NFL Draft.


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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