Former Viking & Current Analyst Speculates about a New Home for Harrison Smith

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Harrison Smith can commonly be found in the cut chatter surrounding the Minnesota Vikings. In that sense, simply noting that a cut is possible is by no means unique. If Kwesi Adofo-Mensah moves on from his veteran safety, the Vikings will recoup close to $11.4 million in cap space. So, the cut speculation is reasonable enough.

What’s a bit more fascinating, however, is when a new home is mentioned, especially when the one who is doing the dot connecting is a former Viking.

To that end, Ben Leber’s words are notable. From 2006-10, Leber was taking care of some of the linebacking duties in Minnesota, notably being part of the 2009 Vikings team that lost the NFC Championship Game in controversial fashion. Recently, the former player and current team analyst shared his take on where Harrison Smith could end up.

Ben Leber, The Former Viking & Current Analyst, Connects The Hitman Dots

Right off the top, Leber’s idea: Harrison Smith could become a Cowboy.

“Lots of attention on Kirk and JJ but don’t forget about Hitman,” Leber argues. “Lots of speculation on his future with Vikes. If not the Vikes, makes sense that he’ll make that Cowboys defense even better.”

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) warms up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

And why is Leber offering a take on Smith heading south to Texas? Because that’s where Mike Zimmer, the long-time head coach, has been hired as the new defensive coordinator.

In theory, Zimmer would be thrilled to have his chess piece back to help bring his defense to fruition. And from Smith’s side of things, playing for Dallas would mean playing for a team that will be among the top in the NFC (in the regular season, at least).

Dallas’ defensive backfield is among the most talented in the NFL. True, an injury stole the season away from Trevon Diggs, but when he comes back the Cowboys will have a formidable pair at corner. Partnering Diggs with DaRon Bland is going to make Zimmer a happy man.

Mike Zimmer Vikings Head Coach
May 26, 2021; Eagan, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

What about adding The Hitman into the mix?

Last season, Smith got shifted around a lot by Brian Flores, bringing back memories of when Zimmer was at the helm. The veteran safety picked up 346 snaps as a free safety and 390 in the box. He then snagged 185 along the defensive line, 151 in the slot, and 39 as a wide corner. Basically any defensive coach – but especially ones like Flores and Zimmer – are going to covet that kind of versatility.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell greets safety Harrison Smith (22) before the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

And then there’s the added benefit of having an elder statesman within the defensive backfield. Diggs (25) and Bland (24) are excellent players and yet they’re being tasked with taking on a new scheme. Might Smith (35) be of assistance?

At the end of the day, Leber is just exploring a possibility. Any number of things could happen once reality arrives in March. The thinking, though, is pretty sound.

Past connections matter in football, so a future where The Hitman puts on a cowboy hat won’t be particularly surprising. Dallas currently has a cap deficit sitting around $19.7 million.

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

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.