In a surprising move, the Minnesota Vikings traded away their star edge-rusher Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns on Friday. The trade sends Smith to the Browns to team up with the explosive Myles Garrett, who is known for his dynamic pass-rushing abilities.
Smith, who was impactful during his only season with the Vikings, recorded ten sacks, 44 tackles, and 24 quarterback hits in 2022. He has a proven track record with 36 sacks in his last 49 games.
The Browns have reworked his contract, guaranteeing him $11.75 million in 2023, and he is eligible for free agency after the 2023 season.
This trade strengthens an already potent Cleveland defense that boasts a deep defensive line, led by Jim Schwartz.
The Browns coordinator is known for rotating players on the line, and with Smith joining the likes of Alex Wright, Isaiah McGuire, and free agent signee Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Schwartz has a plethora of talented players to choose from.
On the other hand, the Vikings will clear $12 million in cap space with Smith’s departure and save $3.33 million in dead money for 2023.
The additional funds could be useful for Minnesota, who has several players due for contract extensions, including Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter, and T.J. Hockenson.
This trade could be one of the many cost-cutting moves for the Vikings this offseason. ESPN’s Dianna Russini has reported that “all signs point” to the Vikings releasing Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, saving Minnesota $6 million in 2023.
With Smith’s departure and a potential cut of Cook, the Vikings seem to be making way for a new era in Minnesota. The team’s future looks bright, with the Vikings well-positioned to build a competitive squad in the coming seasons.