The Vikings traded Za'Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns on Friday evening, reaching the resolution that has seemed imminent for months after the edge rusher voiced his displeasure with his contract.
According to multiple reports, the team received fifth-round picks in 2024 and 2025 from the Browns in exchange for Smith, who was selected to his third Pro Bowl last season. The Vikings also sent sixth- and seventh-round picks in 2025 to Cleveland.
Smith, who was limited to only one game with the Green Bay Packers in 2021 because of a back injury, signed a three-year, $42 million deal with the Vikings last March. He then posted 8½ sacks in the first seven games of the 2022 season. But he had only 1½ sacks in the final 10 games while battling through a knee injury.
The 31-year-old, who spent four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and three with the Packers before joining the Vikings, made it known he was unhappy with his contract, selling his home in Eagan and hiring agent Erik Burkhardt to pursue a new deal. He posted a goodbye to Minnesota on his Instagram account on March 9, and NFL Network cited a source minutes later saying Smith wanted the Vikings to release him. Sources said at the time the Vikings had no plans to do that, and they allowed $5.05 million of Smith's 2023 base salary to become guaranteed on March 17.
The fact the Vikings signed Marcus Davenport — an outside linebacker with 21½ sacks over four seasons with the New Orleans Saints — to a one-year deal in free agency, though, hinted they could still move on from Smith if they were able to find a trade partner. No deal materialized for the Vikings during the draft, but on Friday, General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah worked out a deal with Browns GM Andrew Berry, his former boss in Cleveland.
Trading Smith, who has 54½ sacks over 107 regular-season NFL games, should help the Vikings clear enough cap space to allow the team to fit first-round pick Jordan Addison's rookie deal under their salary cap. The Vikings stood to recoup $12.156 million in cap space by trading Smith, though the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the Vikings will pick up part of Smith's salary for 2023.