TRADE! Vikings Offload Pro Bowl Pass Rusher

An Unexpected New Problem Emerges for Vikings
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith (55) celebrates with linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) after Hunter sacked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter during their football game Sunday, September 11, 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Min. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK.

It took 64 days, but Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is on the move. The man got his wish.

Smith was traded to the Cleveland Browns on Friday, marking the end of a one-year tenure in Minnesota.

TRADE! Vikings Offload Pro Bowl Pass Rusher

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted, “The Vikings are trading three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Za’Darius Smith to the Browns, sources tell me and Ian Rapoport. His reworked contract guarantees him $11.75 million in 2023 and he’ll be a FA next March. All negotiated by his new agent Erik Burkhardt of Roc Nation Sports.

Vikings Pro Bowler
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota reportedly sent Smith, a 2025 6th-Round pick, and a 2025 7th-Round pick to the Browns for a 2024 5th-Rounder and 2025 5th-Rounder. So, Smith + two late-round picks for two 5th-Rounders.

Smith found his way to the Vikings in March 2022, the team’s big free-agent splash of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first offseason. The defender played wonderfully during the first half of 2022 — even nibbling at Defensive Player of the Year consideration — but experienced a slowdown between Weeks 11 and 18, at least per sack totals. Smith’s QB pressures remained relatively consistent, but the sacks nosedived. The sack total simply ceased, tallying just 0.5 from Week 11 to Week 18. He produced 10 sacks from Weeks 1 through 10.

Strange Name Becomes
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Four days before free agency kicked off in March, 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! ?.”

He evidently wasn’t messing around about wanting out. It just took nine weeks to consummate a trade.

Smith Be Back
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith’s house in the Twin Cities went up for sale after the playoff loss to the New York Giants, leading fans to speculate a possible departure. Then, the situation cooled, a new defensive coordinator in Brian Flores was hired, and folks have been on tentative Smith Watch. In the end, it was a trade to Cleveland to punctuate the Za’Darius era in Minnesota.

Trading Smith also frees up $12.1 million on the Vikings salary cap, with a $3.3 million dead cap penalty.

Free-agent addition Marcus Davenport from the New Orleans Saints is on tap to play ‘the Za’Darius role’ in 2023.

The Vikings Have 4
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports.

Former Viking defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson also left for the Browns this offseason, fetching a four-year, $57 million deal from general manager Andrew Berry. Tomlinson and Smith will be teammates once again.

Fifteen months ago, the Vikings hired Adofo-Mensah away from the Browns, so the communication pipeline is alive and well.

The Vikings are also expected to release or trade Dalvin Cook in the coming days or weeks.

Smith turns 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).

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