All Eyes Could Suddenly Turn to Harrison Smith for Vikings

The Vikings Final Injury Report: Week 14
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The Minnesota Vikings have added several impact free agents in the last two days while quarterback Kirk Cousins left for the Atlanta Falcons.

All Eyes Could Suddenly Turn to Harrison Smith for Vikings

The franchise will continue to sign in-house free agents, along with more newcomers, but before too long, all eyes will turn to the club’s longest-tenured player, Harrison Smith.

Theory on Harrison
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Smith turned 35 last month, and his status for 2024 is totally up in the air. He could retire, take a paycut to stay in Minnesota, or be released and freed to join any NFL team. Here’s why all the focus will soon be on the beloved Viking.

1. The Cap Savings

Harrison Smith
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The Vikings have added free agents Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, Blake Cashman, Aaron Jones, and Sam Darnold in the last two days. They also need a defensive tackle after letting Dean Lowry go on Tuesday and could sign a cornerback, too.

Soon, the free-agent funds will run out. Then, all Vikings fans will wonder, “How can we get more cap space?”

Insert Harrison Smith.

Minnesota can save up to $15.3 million by cutting Smith — a painstaking decision because he’s been around since 2012 — an irresistible amount, especially for an aging defender. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could also restructure Brian O’Neill’s and T.J. Hockenson’s contracts, but the “easiest” way to find more cap space is to, sadly, part ways with Smith.

He could also accept a paycut like last year, but one must wonder how often he’ll fancy that proposal. The bottom line? The Vikings will soon look for more cap space, and Smith’s contract is the foremost target.

2. The Decision, in General

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If one took a poll to discover the most cherished Viking on the current roster, Smith would win by a longshot, even over Justin Jefferson.

He’s a borderline Hall of Famer and the bedrock of the Vikings franchise for 12 years. Cap savings aside, severing ties with Smith is a big damn deal, so Vikings faithful are on Smith Watch for that reason. Folks mourned Adam Thielen’s departure last offseason, and Smith’s would-be exodus would even surpass that for fans’ emotions.

Ergo, it’s not just a money thing; it’s a “Is my favorite player finally leaving?” thing for thousands of Vikings fans. And a decision should be afoot in the coming days, weeks at the latest.

3. Where Might He Go if Released?

Mike Zimmer Press Conference | Dallas Cowboys 2024. Zimmer took over as the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator in February 2024 when Dan Quinn accepted a head coaching job with the Washington Commanders. Zimmer coached the Vikings from 2014 to 2021.

Mike Zimmer. That may be all you need to know about Smith’s next team (if there is one).

Smith and Zimmer were attached at the hip for eight seasons, and now Zimmer is in charge of the Cowboys’ defense indefinitely. Dallas will call itself a Super Bowl contender in 2024 but probably lose before the NFC Championship. Still, the fit makes sense, and Smith could replace former Viking Jayron Kearse, a free agent.

Also monitor the Atlanta Falcons, Kirk Cousins’ new team.

Jerry Gray is the Falcons’ assistant head coach; Smith and Gray worked together for six seasons in Minnesota. Atlanta’s current strong safety is DeMarcoo Hellams, a 7th-Rounder from last year’s draft. Smith might be an upgrade for 2024. Smith was also born about two hours from the Falcons’ stadium.

Other landing spots? The Bills, 49ers, Seahawks, Eagles, and perhaps the Buccaneers.

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).

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