Vikings Pro Bowler Reportedly Asks to Be Released

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

First, the Minnesota Vikings released veteran linebacker Eric Kendricks earlier this week, a move that saved the club $9.5 million in cap funds.

Now, another popular defender could depart the franchise on his terms.

Vikings Pro Bowler Reportedly Asks to Be Released

Outsider linebacker Za’Darius Smith evidently wants to move on after one season with the franchise. Smith notched 10 sacks in 2022, a Pro Bowl appearance, and a one-and-done showing in the postseason.

Vikings Pro Bowler
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith tweeted Thursday afternoon, “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! ?.”

And that sounded like an “I’m about to be cut” tweet, but the plot thickened.

Smith Be Back
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport retweeted Smith’s goodbye and wrote, “Vikings Pro Bowl pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith informed the team that he wants to be released, I’m told. The team has no plans to do that. The situation remains unresolved.”

Smith’s house in the Twin Cities went up for sale after the playoff loss to New York, 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.

Strange Name Becomes
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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 Minnesota releases or trades the 30-year-old, it will save $12.1 million in cap space while incurring a $3.3 million dead cap hit in 2023.

A little over a week ago, Bleacher Report published an article about ‘dream trades’ during the NFL offseason, and Smith was included. BR’s Kristopher Knox explained a Smith trade to the San Francisco 49ers, “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.”

Smith the Subject
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

“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.

But the Vikings may not even get to the trade portion of Smith’s saga if Rapoport is correct and the man wants out before free agency begins next week.

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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