The Flirtation Unfulfilled & The Hitman Who Stayed

NFL: New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

For a time, Harrison Smith – affectionately known as The Hitman – considered playing for a different team.

After 11 seasons with the Vikings, The Hitman stood at a contractural crossroads. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was pursuing cost-cutting measures while still trying to field a competitive team (the ever-so-delicate balance of his competitive rebuild ethos). Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks were casualties of this approach. In a way, so too were Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson, veterans who ended up making more elsewhere.

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Sep 13, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive back Harrison Smith (22) tackles Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith, an all-time Vikings great who should someday see his #22 jersey retired, wondered about what life would be like in a different uniform. “I thought about it, for sure,” Smith claimed in response to a question about whether he considered going to a different team. He went to discuss how it’s “human nature” to consider “other things and other places.”

Indeed, we certainly can’t blame him for wondering. He has given a ton to the franchise and, indeed, the sport as a whole. If he wanted to pursue a better shot at winning the Super Bowl, few could blame him. At this stage, he has more than earned momentary flirtations with the idea of going to another team.

In the end, the allure of continuing his career in Minnesota proved too strong. Take a look at what the safety had to say:

The Brian Flores addition is an important factor, and so too is the commitment from the Wilfs to invest in their team. Those factors, alongside his history in Minnesota, led to him deciding to stick around for at least another season.

He’s now the elder statesman in a secondary undergoing a major transition. The other safeties on the roster – Camryn Bynum, Lewis Cine, and Josh Metellus – are all working on their rookie contracts. Otherwise, there is Theo Jackson, who is still only 24.

Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) returns an interception for a 66 yard touchdown as safety Harrison Smith (22) follows off a pass by Chicago Bears quarterback Andy Dalton (not pictured) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a major leadership drain during the offseason. Patrick Peterson, Eric Kendricks, and Adam Thielen are all playing for other teams. Each member of that trio had a “C” on their chest last season. If the Dalvin Cook trade occurs – it’s looking increasingly likely – then that’ll be another captain subtraction.

Smith’s leadership will be more important than ever.

Last season, the veteran snagged 5 interceptions to go alongside his 10 PDs. He also had 85 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 FF. Most expect these stats – and his level of play more broadly – to experience a notable uptick with Flores calling the shots.

He’s carrying an $11,827,647 cap hit into the season.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.