The Brilliance of The Za’Darius Smith Deal

Jan 22, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith (55) celebrates after sacking San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (not pictured) in the first quarter during a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s circle back to the Za’Darius Smith deal. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did a sensational job with this one, so it’s worth discussing in greater detail.

Earlier in the week, I drew attention to how KAM has been structuring the salary cap. In 2024, the Vikings only have one player with guaranteed money left on his deal: Christian Darrisaw. The draft will bring in a player in the opening round, and his deal will have some guaranteed money in 2024. So, this simple fact is going to change, both due to the draft and because of some likely extensions (see Jefferson, Justin).

Nevertheless, the point remains that the Vikings are walking into some good flexibility in 2024, a reality that the Za’Darius Smith contract further underscores. Take a look at how the money works over these next three years:

YearCap HitDead Money
2022$3.343M$6.45M
2023$14.166M$3.333M
2024$21.666M$1.666M
Info courtesy of Over the Cap

As you can see, the opening year of the deal comes in at a remarkably modest number. That reality makes it all work. Climbing into the $7-8+ million territory for 2022 would have likely been prohibitive to the Vikings.

What makes it even more brilliant, though, is that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has structured the deal in a manner that allows him to stay true to his broader 2-year plan. The Super Bowl window – if we’re optimistic enough to call it that – currently has a two-year time stamp. If the current core can’t get it done, then it’ll be a full reset in 2024. Very few of the team’s high-end vets would be safe; most would be cut or traded.

What we have, then, is a deal that really strikes a nice balance. Za’Darius Smith has the capacity to make some pretty good money, especially with the incentives tied to games played. The Vikings protect themselves by giving them an easy out down the road. Plus, an injury – though very unfortunate – involves the team being able to avoid paying a lot of money for someone who isn’t available.

Some may be inclined to criticize KAM for his moves this offseason, but the Smith deal looks like a home run.


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