Have We Seen The Hitman’s Final Chapter?

harrison smith
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

When a franchise uses a first-round pick on a player, they hope to get a high production level. In the NFL, however, there are never any guarantees for how long that production lasts.

Have We Seen The Hitman’s’ Final Chapter?

Minnesota took Harrison Smith 29th overall in 2012, and reaping those benefits for over a decade is something you never expect to see. Have we now seen the end, though?

Coming out of Notre Dame, Harrison Smith was the Minnesota Vikings’ second pick of the first round. Matt Kalil was taken 4th overall in hopes of bolstering the offensive line, and when the front office opted to go with the Golden Domer, they had their sights on a captain of the defense. However, what happened for the next 12 seasons is beyond anyone’s wildest memories.

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Image Courtesy of Vikings.com. Strong safety Harrison Smith was shown wearing the Minnesota Vikings new alternate uniforms on July 18, 2023, via stream event. Minnesota will wear the uniforms on September 10th, 2023, at home versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During his career with the Vikings, Harrison Smith has played in 176 regular season games, of which he has started 175. He played less than 13 games once during a single season of his career and was routinely available for the entire slate. Not only has Smith been an incredible talent, but his ability to remain healthy even as he has aged remains remarkable.

When the final horn sounded on Sunday in Detroit, it immediately became a question as to whether or not that was it for Smith. He will be 35 years old next season, and his body has been through a considerable amount. Although it was never likely he would have an immediate response to the question, figuring out what the future holds is something he’ll’ need to wrestle with for the early portion of the offseason.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Now a six-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro team selection, Smith has a well-decorated history. He will be a consideration for enshrinement in Canton when his opportunity rolls around, and there is no question as to whether he’ll be invited into the Vikings’ Ring of Honor. If he opts to return, which would mean that Minnesota wants him back, all of that can wait. At this point, though, riding off into the sunset could make sense.

A year ago, Lewis Cine was selected in the first round and was viewed as the heir apparent at the safety position. Having dealt with a career-altering leg injury and failing to show any semblance of worthiness to crack the lineup, his opportunities have all but come and gone. Still, the Vikings have done well to develop both Cam Bynum and Josh Mettellus at the position, and their safety role for the future appears to be in good hands. If and when Smith does depart, that pair should feel fortunate to have grown alongside him the last few seasons.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

When Smith ultimately does hang up his cleats, it will be weird to see someone else wearing the number #22. The Vikings have viewed Hitman as a staple in the lineup for so long that things won’t’ feel complete without him, but a new wave must be fully ushered in. Seeing him compete at such a high level over the years has been nothing but a joy, and if we have now seen the end, his well-deserved retirement should be plenty enticing for him personally as well.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s‘ active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.