BREAKING: Vikings Trade Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns

4 Potential Trade Partners for Vikings EDGE Za'Darius Smith
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this offseason, pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith requested that the Minnesota Vikings release him from the roster. As a response, Minnesota signed Marcus Davenport in free agency as well as undrafted free agent Andre Carter II.

After Smith’s initial request, though, everything went silent as to how the Vikings were actually going to respond. Well, on Friday evening we got our answer as to how that would end up. Per Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Vikings have traded pass-rusher to the Cleveland Browns.

Will the Real Z-Smith Please Stand Up?
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

There are a couple things to note with this trade. Firstly, the Vikings get off of Smith’s contract, which carried a cap hit of $15.4 million in 2023. However, the contract has been re-worked, per Rapoport, giving him $11.75 million of guaranteed money with the Browns compared to the $5 million guaranteed he would have had in Minnesota. Rather than being under contract through 2024, he also will hit free agency next March.

As for the compensation coming back to the Vikings, it isn’t much. In return, Minnesota got a fifth-round pick in 2024 and a fifth-round pick in 2025, but they also had to send 2025 sixth and seventh round picks to Cleveland in order to make the trade happen.

So, what does the aftermath of this trade look like for both sides? Well, Smith will be reunited with Dalvin Tomlinson, who left the Vikings in free agency back in March, signing a four-year, $57 million contract with Cleveland. It also means that the Browns have a truly fearsome pass-rushing duo in Smith and Myles Garrett. Garrett has recorded 10+ sacks in each of the past five seasons, including 16 in both 2021 and 2022.

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.

In Minnesota, this officially opens the door for Davenport to take over the starting role at EDGE opposite Danielle Hunter. This is a massive year for the former Saint pass rusher, who recorded just half a sack in 2022 after showing promising signs of production during 2021. In that season, he recorded 9.0 sacks despite playing only 11 games.

This also continues the youth movement for the Vikings defense as they shed another 30+ year old player this offseason. Currently, come Week 1, likely only Jordan Hicks and Harrison Smith will be above that age-30 threshold among Minnesota’s starters on defense.

Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins (73) looks to block Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

During Smith’s only season with the Vikings, he recorded 10 sacks, and he also put up 15 tackles for loss in the process. This is a ton of production that now goes on the shoulders of the youngsters.

In the process, Minnesota also saves a chunk of cap space by making this trade. The Vikings announced a number of rookie signings today despite running up on the end of their salary cap tank, but this deal frees up the money necessary to get all the deals done.

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.