New Twist Enters Situation for Harrison Smith

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

A bit buried behind Minnesota Vikings’ offseason dominoes like Kirk Cousins’ future, Danielle Hunter’s free agency, and Justin Jefferson’s incoming contract extension is the fate of Harrison Smith.

New Twist Enters Situation for Harrison Smith

The six-time Pro Bowler arrived at another career crossroads this offseason, deciding between retirement, accepting a paycut in Minnesota, or signing with a Super Bowl-contending team.

Harrison Smith
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

While the first two options are in play, the latter became more complicated this week. Why? Well, the NFL’s free-agent safety market turned absolutely saturated. There’s probably a spot for Smith on an elite team’s roster, but elite teams will have their pick of the litter at Smith’s position.

Smith returned last offseason — when the same options were on the table — accepting a pay reduction and hoping the Vikings could contend for the Super Bowl. This offseason, however, quarterback Kirk Cousins may depart, and it is unclear if Smith has time for a rookie quarterback’s development. Young passers don’t typically lead teams to glory in Year No .1, and Smith may not have more than a year left in the tank.

The Vikings Final Injury Report: Week 14
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On the market overload with safeties, well, it’s real. Very real. These safeties are available to NFL teams as of March 7th:

  • Jamal Adams
  • Julian Blackmon
  • Kevin Byard
  • Jeremy Chinn
  • Kamren Curl
  • Quandre Diggs
  • Kyle Dugger
  • Jordan Fuller
  • C.J. Gardner-Johnson
  • Micah Hyde
  • Eddie Jackson
  • Rayshawn Jenkins
  • Xavier McKinney
  • Jordan Poyer
  • Darnell Savage
  • Justin Simmons
  • Geno Stone
  • Tracy Walker
  • Jordan Whitehead

And those are just the high-profile ones.

Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard (31) heads to the field before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Since joining the NFL in 2012, Smith ranks first among all defensive backs in tackles, first in QB hits, first in interceptions, second in sacks, and second in tackles for loss. Releasing Smith would save the Vikings $15.3 million if the move were marked with a post-June 1st designation. He’s earned the right to latch onto another organization and hope to play February football.

But he’ll join a group of 20, with many perhaps holding the same Super Bowl mindset as Smith.

On retirement, that theory was rebuked this week. KSTP’s Darren Wolfson said on the Mackey and Judd Show about the Smith retirement angle, “At this point, I’ll be surprised. […] Cap hit of nearly $20 million, base salary of $14 million and change. For him to play for the Vikings in 2024, we know he’ll have to take another pay cut. He took a pretty decent paycut a year ago. To me, he’d have to take an even bigger paycut, so we will see how that remains to be seen how that plays out. I’m just saying, I’d be pretty darn surprised if he just walks away.”

Theory on Harrison
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Keep an eye on the Dallas Cowboys as a possible destination if Smith is released. Mike Zimmer is the new defensive coordinator down in Dallas, and he and Smith worked together for eight years with the Vikings.

Minnesota has about $37 million in cap space before any Smith paycut or release.


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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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