The Minnesota Vikings have traded three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Za'Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns, the team announced Tuesday. Along with Smith, the Browns received a 2025 sixth and seventh-round pick. The Vikings received 2024 and 2025 fifth-round picks.
Smith, 30, recorded 10 sacks during his only season with the Vikings. He was previously signed through the 2024 with the Vikings with a $9.4 million base salary with $5 million guaranteed. Now, Smith will receive $11.75 million this year as part of his reworked deal. Smith will also get a chance to test free agency next year.
In Cleveland, he will join a Browns defense that features perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. and defensive backs Denzel Ward, Grant Delpit and Greg Newsome II. Smith's addition fills a previous void in Cleveland left by Jadeveon Clowney's departure at the end of the 2022 season.
Smith's loss is a considerable one for the Vikings, whose linebacker corps still includes Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport. Minnesota added to its defense via the draft when they selected cornerback Mekhi Blackmon in the third round, safety Jay Ward in the fourth round and nose tackle Jaquelin Roy in the fifth round.
The 122nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Smith is familiar with the AFC North having started his career with the Ravens. A part-time starter during his four years in Baltimore, Smith hit free agency following his final season with the Ravens that saw him record a then-career-high 8.5 sacks.
Smith signed a four-year deal with the Packers the ensuing offseason. He immediately blossomed into a Pro Bowler in Green Bay, where he recorded 13.5 sacks in 2019 and 12.5 sacks in 2020 while helping the Packers advance to the NFC Championship Game during both seasons.
After an injury wiped out virtually his entire 2021 season (his final one with the Packers), Smith proved that he was still an elite player during his lone season in Minnesota. He played in 17 of a possible 18 games (including the playoffs) while earning his third trip to the Pro Bowl.
How did each team fare in this trade? Here's our two cents.
Cleveland needed to bolster its pass rush after having just 34 quarterback takedowns in 2022. Take away Garrett's sack total, and the Browns averaged just over one sack a game last season. That's not going to cut it in an AFC that has a wealth of elite quarterback play.
Sure, the Browns could lose Smith after a year, but they'd get a compensatory pick for next year's draft should Smith sign elsewhere. Regardless of what happens next year, the Browns gave up little to get a Pro Bowl caliber player who can help them win now.
One would think that the Vikings would have been able to get more for a player of Smith's caliber. Despite that fact, the Vikings were able to improve their future draft capital. Smith's salary, the fact that he will be a free agent next year and the fact that we're this late in the offseason surely limited the Vikings' options.
Minnesota gets a B largely because, by dealing Smith, they achieved their main goal of saving salary cap space. Removing Smith from the payroll allows them to keep other notable players that may include running back Dalvin Cook, whose future in Minnesota has also come under question as of late.