Minnesota Vikings Trade Za’Darius Smith to Cleveland Browns

Za'Darius Smith

Za’Darius Smith asked out shortly before free agency began in March, but the Minnesota Vikings didn’t release him.

Instead, the Vikings waited until they found a trade they could live with, and that happened on Friday. The team sent Smith and two 2025 draft choices to the Cleveland Browns for a pair of picks, NFL Media reported.

The Browns reworked Smith’s contract to guarantee him $11.75 million for 2023 and allow him to become a free agent in 2024. Smith signed a three-year, $42 million contract with the Vikings in March 2022. He received nearly all of that deal’s $11.5 million in guaranteed money last season, per Spotrac.

In addition to Smith, the Browns received sixth- and seventh-round picks in the 2025 NFL Draft. The Vikings received two fifth-round picks, one in each of the next two drafts.

Smith made his third Pro Bowl after the 2022 season after racking up 10 sacks, 24 quarterback hits and 44 tackles for a beleaguered Vikings defense. Minnesota won the NFC North with a 13-4 record but finished 31st in total yards and passing yards allowed and 30th in points allowed.

Smith’s pass-rushing ability helps address what was a big problem for the Browns in 2022. Cleveland finished tied for 27th in sacks with just 34. Myles Garrett had 16 — nearly half of them. The Browns defense finished 20th in points allowed but 14th in yards allowed.

The Vikings and Packers moved Smith around the defensive line, including frequently rushing him from inside on passing downs. He and third-round draft pick Siaki Ika will help the Browns shore up their defensive front, something The 33rd Team analyst Robert Smith said should be an offseason priority.

“They have got to work on that defense, particularly the interior of that defensive line,” Smith said. “They didn’t have that interior push. People talk all the time about the front and the coverage being married. What that means is if the front can’t get home, then the back end has to cover too long, and that can create all kinds of problems.”

Smith’s trade caps a strange past few months for him. He tweeted goodbye to Vikings fans two days before free agency opened, but the team didn’t release him.

He played just one season in Minnesota after three with the Green Bay Packers. Smith made 26 sacks during his first two seasons in Green Bay and earned his first two Pro Bowl nods. He missed all but two games in 2021 after having a procedure on his back and staying away from the team. The Packers released him after the season, and the Vikings pounced.

He began his career with the Baltimore Ravens, cashing in on an 8.5-sack season in 2018 to sign a four-year, $66 million contract with the Packers in free agency the next spring.

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