Za’Darius Smith is Nearing a Major Bonus
Like many others, I believe that Za’Darius Smith has been Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s best free agent signing. After 6 games, Smith leads the Vikings with 5.5 sacks. The former Packer has been disruptive, which is an encouraging development for a defense that still has a lot of room to improve.
One thing to keep in mind is that Smith’s success getting after the QB can lead to greater financial compensation. As Sean Borman explains, Smith’s contract has some statistical incentives that the edge rusher is on track to actualize. Take a look at the tweet:
At this point, surpassing 8.5 sacks feel like a foregone conclusion. It’s merely a matter of “when” rather than “if.” In fact, he’s on pace to easily surpass the highest mark. Alas, it’s unwise to make assumptions about how the rest of the year will proceed, but Smith has been playing very well.
Currently, the Vikings have very little cap space. OTC has them at a mere $862,928. Keep in mind that that’s a number that will change with some regularity. The overall point, though, is that Minnesota doesn’t have too much room left in their current budget. Thankfully, the bonuses Za’Darius Smith may attain will hit next year’s salary cap.
Assuming he’s on the roster next season – and let’s hope he is – Smith will once again be able to pursue sizable bonuses. Spotrac suggests that the team and player have agreed to a similar structure of 8.5, 10.5, and 12.5 sacks. The money, though, has increased. He could add $1.5 million, $3 million, or $4 million to his 2024 cap hit with this statistical production in 2023.
Moving forward, the Vikings will be hoping Za’Darius Smith can continue his excellent play. If it ends up costing more money next season, then so be it. It costs money to get elite play from an edge rusher. Smith is very underpaid given how well he has been playing.
If Danielle Hunter can start to match his edge rushing partner, then the Vikings will truly have one of the most intimidating edge rusher pairs in the NFL. Don’t forget that Smith has been a 3-4 OLB for a little while whereas Hunter is making the transition for the first time in his NFL career. It’s very possible we see a much better Hunter as the season progresses.
Minnesota’s defense is very much a work in progress. We do see hope, though, in the play up front. Dalvin Tomlinson has been excellent and Harrison Phillips is a powerful defensive tackle. D.J. Wonnum and Patrick Jones II have also had some good moments. The combination of elite talent and strong depth gives the defensive front a chance to be very good.
Za’Darius Smith has emerged as a leader on Minnesota’s defense. Continued strong play will help the team keep winning as it helps him secure a larger pay day in the future.
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