Minnesota Vikings To Sign Former Packers Pass Rusher Za’Darius Smith
The Vikings have another pretty epic border-crossing defector joining their ranks.
After spending some time recently in Minnesota, former Packers pass rusher Za’Darius Smith has reportedly agreed to terms for a deal to join the Vikings.
The 29 year-old linebacker had visited TCO Performance Center on Monday, sharing a video of the facility and a picture of himself in front of one of the giant video screens welcoming him on his Instagram story.
Smith was cut by the Packers to get under the team's salary cap, making him available to other teams around the league. There had been rumors he was signing a deal with the Baltimore Ravens and he had reportedly also been getting interest from the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys.
In the end, the opportunity to chase down Aaron Rodgers twice a season must have been more alluring than any other deal he had been offered.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday morning that Smith had agreed to a three-year deal worth up to $47 million.
Smith apparently turned down a 4-year deal with the Ravens with a base value of $35 million with opportunities to get up to $50 million in favor of joining the Vikings. The deal gives him a bigger payday per year and allows him to exact some revenge on a team that cut him during the offseason.
Smith had back surgery in September of 2021, which limited him to one game for the Packers last season. In the previous two season in Green Bay, he had amassed 26 sacks and 69 tackles, including 3.5 sacks during his 2019 visit to US Bank Stadium.
With Za’Darius joining the Vikings defense, he is reuniting with his former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who was with Green Bay from 2018 to 2020. Pettine is now an assistant head coach with the Vikings, signed this offseason.
Another reunion will be with Smith's position coach, Mike Smith, who was the outside linebackers coach in Green Bay. The Vikings hired him (Mike) Smith as their outside linebacker/pass rush specialist coach this offseason, making for a few familiar coaching faces for Za’Darius as he joins the Purple.
The addition of Za’Darius will add another pass rushing threat on top of Danielle Hunter as the team transitions to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Ed Donatell.
While Smith only played one game in the 2021 season, he has otherwise been a durable player. He played all 16 games as a starter of the 2019 and 2020 seasons in Green Bay and played in a vast majority of the games during his time in Baltimore, where he did not have a consistent starting role with the team.
Here's hoping he can return to his pre-surgery form as a monster on the defense as he heads into the 2022 season with a new team and a hungry, young head coach and general manager, both looking to make a statement in their first year in their new roles.