The Hitman’s Last Hurrah in Minnesota

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Following the conclusion of the 2023 season, question marks hovered over the future of Harrison Smith, and we got our answer when it was revealed he was taking a pay cut to stay in Minnesota.

The details of the new contract came out, and they were even more team-friendly than anyone had imagined. The new deal sets the stage for the Hitman’s last hurrah in Minnesota.

The Hitman’s Last Hurrah in Minnesota

The colossal cap hits that the Vikings number 22 had scheduled for 2024 and 2025 were untenable. As great as the Hitman has been for Minnesota and as good as he still is, he just isn’t a $20+ million a year player at this stage of his career. The details of Smith’s restructured contract make for very interesting reading and all but confirm that he will finish his career as a one-team player.

the hitman
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Smith received a $7 million signing bonus, the only guaranteed money in the new contract. His base salary in 2024 dropped from $14.9 million to $1.49 million, with $510k in per-game roster bonuses and a cap hit of $7.315 million.

Smith’s 2025 base salary dropped from $19 million to $1.255 million, and a cap hit $6.57 million. Three void years were also added to spread the cost of the contract out. What does all this mean? In a year when Smith will be 36, if he chooses to retire, the Vikings could designate Smith as a post-June 1st cut once the 2025 league year starts and save $4.2 million on the salary cap with a cap hit of just $5,315,884.

Theory on Harrison
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Alternatively, if Smith is still playing well during his 13th season in the league and still has the appetite for one more, the Vikings don’t have to worry about the contract, as that work has already been done. His cap hit for 2025 would be $6.57 million, down from the previously slated $22 million and only nominally higher than if Smith were to retire/be released. Either way, the Hitman appears certain to finish his NFL career, having only ever been a Viking.

The Hitman’s Legacy

Smith can write the final chapter of his story in Minnesota, the only team he has played for in the pro ranks after being drafted by the Vikings with the 29th overall pick back in 2012. The last bastion of a previous era, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have transformed the Vikings team into one of their own. If there were one player you wanted to stick around to bring a new young team through, it would always be Smith. He may not be the player he once was. Father Time catches up with all of us, but he is still a good player whose football IQ is unrivaled — the perfect man for teammates to learn from.

harrison smith
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

However the Hitman’s final chapter plays out, he will finish his career as an All-Pro (first team in 2017 and second team in 2018) and a six-time Pro Bowler. He is an absolute certainty to be inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor and has put together a career that is Hall of Fame worthy. For at least one more season, Smith has the opportunity to add to an already incredible stat line of 176 games, 1039 tackles (766 solo), 45 tackles for loss, 42 QB hits, 19.5 sacks, 12 forces fumbles, 8 fumbles recoveries, and 86 pass deflections. There was also the small matter of 34 interceptions, four of which were returned for a touchdown.

All of these were done in Minnesota purple. Vikings fans have been blessed to see such a great player and a great man represent their team. We should all enjoy these last moments of a great career.