Vikings’ Za’Darius Smith Seeking Release

With the new league year approaching, all teams must reach cap compliance in the coming days. The Vikings are one of several teams with work left to do to accomplish that goal, though one veteran’s intentions would see them clear a significant amount of cap space if they were to be honored.

Edge rusher Za’Darius Smith wants to be released by Minnesota, as suggested by a tweet sent on Thursday. In it, he appears to send a farewell message to his teammates, fans and members of the organization. As Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes (on Twitter), Smith sold his house earlier this year amidst the expectation that he would be playing elsewhere in 2023.

Goessling and others report, however, that the Vikings currently have no intention of cutting the 30-year-old. Smith has two years remaining on his contract, a three-year, $42MM pact signed after he was released by the Packers. That made him a free agent for the second time in his career, allowing him to net another lucrative pact on the open market.

Smith previously appeared to have a deal in place with the Ravens, with whom he spent the first four years of his career. After terms seemed to be agreed upon, it was learned that he was moving in another direction, which opened up his intra-divisional move to the Vikings. The former fourth-rounder had a highly productive debut season in Minnesota, racking up 10 sacks, 37 pressures and one forced fumble. Those figures helped earn him a third career Pro Bowl nod.

Smith is due $32.5MM over the next two years, but none of his base salaries are guaranteed for 2023 or 2024. That would yield the Vikings cap savings of $12.2MM and $20MM, respectively, in those years, figures which would be of great importance to a team in their current financial situation. Minnesota is currently almost $16MM over the cap, and facing increased urgency to make cost-cutting moves with the start of free agency (March 15) around the corner.

That could force them to release wideout Adam Thielen (or at least restructure his current contract). Developments on that front will likely be coming soon, as they will in Smith’s case as well, as the NFC North champions look to keep as many 2022 contributors in the fold as possible while dealing with their cap constraints.

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