Za’Darius Smith the Subject of ‘Dream Offseason Trade’ Theory

If the Minnesota Vikings hired Brian Flores to lead the 2023 defense and immediately started peeling away defensive talent from the roster, some might find that a little odd.

But not everybody, as Bleacher Report published an article last week about ‘dream trades’ during the NFL offseason, and Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was included.

Za’Darius Smith the Subject of ‘Dream Offseason Trade’ Theory

The Vikings dream trade was offloading defenders Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith for low-round draft picks, while the San Francisco 49ers evidently pilfered the aforementioned Za’Darius Smith.

Smith the Subject
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Indeed, BR’s Kristopher Knox spitballed a Vikings-49ers deal where Minnesota would receive a mid-round pick or two for Smith, and San Francisco inherits a dangerous pass rusher opposite Nick Bosa. Knox explained, “In a dream scenario, the Vikings would make Za’Darius Smith available as part of their salary-purging efforts. Trading Smith before June 1 would save Minnesota¬†$13.7 million¬†in cap space, which would account for a large portion of its $21.3 million cap deficit.”

Vikings Defender Can Earn
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.

Smith graded an 83.3 score from Pro Football Focus in 2022, the 13th-best in the NFL among EDGE defenders. He’s under contract in Minnesota through the end of 2024.

“Smith would also likely make a more immediate impact than a drafted rookie, especially considering San Francisco doesn’t have first- or second-round selections. Given Minnesota’s need to create cap space, a third-round pick or two might be able to get a deal done. San Francisco just so happens to have a trio of third-round picks this year,” Knox concluded.

Smith Be Back
Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) looks on during training camp at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

If Knox is correct — Smith’s trade price feels like a longshot — the Vikings probably would explore a Smith-to-49ers trade. Because general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded for Akayleb Evans and T.J. Hockenson using 2023 picks, the draft cupboard feels a little skimpy at the moment. Sending Smith to San Francisco for two 3rd-Rounders might be a no-brainer to rubberstamp.

It’s just unclear if that pricetag is real.

Smith stockpiled 9.5 sacks during the first two months of the season in 2022 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 fans evidently don’t care about those if sacks aren’t flying onto the statsheet.

Dropping Clues
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) celebrates after a sack in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

He reached the Pro Bowl last year, and some Vikings enthusiasts merely swept that under the rug, too, because the second half of his season didn’t mimic the first half. And next year, his cap hit is scheduled at $16.9 million. Five years ago, that was a gaudy number. But this isn’t 2017.

About 10 days ago, news broke that Smith’s home was for sale, which intensified the miniature trade and roster-cut theories.

Smith will turn 31 in September.


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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