New Report Sours the Za’Darius Smith Trade for Vikings

Questions Answered: New Starters, New Numbers, Will Patience Be a Virtue
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

On Friday night, news broke that the Minnesota Vikings had traded Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns. Along with Smith, Minnesota also sent a sixth-round pick and a seventh-round pick in the 2025 Draft. In return, the Browns sent two fifth-round picks to the Vikings, one in 2024 and one in 2025.

Largely, it seems that this trade happened because Smith no longer wanted to be in Minnesota. News came out back in March that he wanted to be released from the Vikings, but until this trade, it had been radio silence from either side on the issue.

Smith joins a Cleveland Brown roster that recorded just 34 sacks in 2022, tied with the Packers for the fifth-fewest in the league, so they desperately needed to add another pass-rusher that can take some pressure off Myles Garrett.

New Report Sours Za’Darius Smith Trade for Vikings

New Report Sours Za'Darius Smith Trade
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

While the trade should free up some cap space for Minnesota both this year and in 2024, there is a new report that puts a bit of a sour note on the trade from a Vikings perspective. According to Mary Kay Cabot of, the Vikings are set to take on a portion of Smith’s new contract as part of the conditions of the trade. Here is what her report had to say:

Before the trade, the Vikings had about $1.096 million in cap space for second-last in the NFL, according to Over the Cap. The move cleared $12.156 million with a dead cap charge of about $3.33 million, but the Vikings didn’t realize the entire savings. When the Browns reworked Smith’s contract to pay him $11.75 million guaranteed in 2023, the Vikings footed some of the bill, a league source said.

Smith’s deal got reworked in order to make this trade happen, meaning that instead of only having $5 million guaranteed in 2023 and being under contract through the 2024 season, he will get $11.75 million this season. It is unknown exactly how much of the bill will go on the Vikings tab for 2023.

Za'Darius Smith Wants to Be Released
Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) looks on during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Considering the Vikings got such little return for Smith as it is, the fact that they will have to pay part of the salary in 2023 is rather disappointing news. Smith recorded 10 sacks in 2022, and despite only recording half a sack over the final seven games of his season (sat out Week 18), he still ranked fifth in the NFL in pressures for the year with 80, per Pro Football Focus. 23 of these pressures came over those final seven games from Weeks 11-17.

It’s a bummer to see a player of that quality leave the roster in general, but to not get much in return and have to pay a portion of his salary on top of that makes it a tough pill to swallow.

Regardless, the Vikings will still see some big savings in 2024 from this trade. Over the Cap has them slated to save $20 million next offseason by moving on from him.

This also shows that Minnesota is confident moving forward with a younger pass-rushing group, and Marcus Davenport will officially get his chance to show what he can do as a starter in a Vikings uniform. Expect to see more Patrick Jones II, Luiji Vilain, and perhaps some Andre Carter II as well to help replace some of Smith’s production.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.