Purple PSA: The Vikings’ FA Chaos, The Yearning for News, & The Za’Darius Smith Example

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In a few short hours, the Vikings’ FA chaos will begin as everyone gets what they’ve been yearning for for a couple months: actual news.

Sure, there has been a small trickle. Theo Jackson got brought back. So, too, did Nick Muse land a new deal to stick around; a tight end counterpart, Johnny Mundt, is also back. Alexander Mattison has been let go, clearing cap space for the upcoming business. But, of course, this is simply the tip of the iceberg. More — much more — still needs to be done.

Purple PSA on The Vikings’ FA Chaos

Za’Darius Smith was going to leave the Green Bay Packers behind.

The talented veteran was coming off a productive period in Wisconsin that had recently been marred by injury. The plan was to jump over to Maryland, reuniting with a Ravens team that drafted him back in 2015. The fit made sense all around, but there was one problem: the news was announced, circulated, and accepted before the contract had any ink on it.

Report: Za'Darius Smith Is Preparing to Sell House in Minnesota
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The star pass rusher backed out of the deal.

On March 17th, 2022, ESPN covered the Smith reversal: “Smith became the latest NFL player to back out on an agreement Thursday, when he decided not to sign a four-year, $35 million deal with Baltimore, a source told ESPN. So, Smith becomes a free agent and the Ravens’ search for a pass-rusher continues.”

The piece goes on: “On Wednesday afternoon, it looked like Smith was returning to Baltimore, where he was drafted in the fourth round in 2015. A source told ESPN that the Ravens believed they had reached a verbal agreement on a deal that averaged $8.75 million per season, which seemed like a great value for a two-time Pro Bowl player.”

The issue, at its most basic level, is simply that pen didn’t get put to paper. There was a verbal agreement but no ironclad signature. The pass rusher backed out and eventually found a deal in Minnesota.

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants running back Matt Breida (31) runs with the ball against Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) during the third quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Almost certainly, the next round of free agency is going to offer instances where players arrive at verbal agreements with teams but don’t actually sign a contract (after all, the real contracts can only be signed on Wednesday, March 13th from 4 p.m. ET onward).

In the 2024 offseason, there’s no guarantee that the Vikings are directly impacted by the reality we’re discussing. Usually, there are only a few instances of agreements not getting across the finish line. It does happen, though, so it’s something that’s worth monitoring.

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Feb 27, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah speaks during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota has a pile of roster needs and quite a bit of cash to get things done. And, to be sure, the GM knows that he’s staring down some very important decisions. In January, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah acknowledged that he was venturing into a very important offseason. We’re now at the point when he’ll get to make increasingly consequential decisions.

So while the news that’s just around the corner is sure to inspire some mixture of jubilee and despair, do your best to keep your head screwed on straight. Nothing is done until it’s officially done.

The Vikings are sitting on roughly $35 million in cap space. Free agency in all of its fullness hits on Wednesday, March 13 at 3 p.m. CT. Until then, enjoy the explosion of news that’s mere hours away.

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.