The Cleveland Browns have strengthened their defense with the acquisition of Za’Darius Smith in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. The trade, which was confirmed by a source to ESPN, sees Minnesota receive two fifth-round picks in 2024 and 2025 while Cleveland receives a 2025 sixth-round pick and a 2025 seventh-rounder.
Smith, a three-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher, will join All-Pro Myles Garrett to form one of the most formidable pass-rushing duos in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Smith is one of only five players to have recorded 10 or more sacks in three of the past four seasons, with Garrett being one of the others.
Smith’s Career and Trade to Cleveland
Smith, who is 30 years old, had 10 sacks with the Vikings in 2022. He previously played for the Green Bay Packers, where he combined for 26 sacks in consecutive Pro Bowl seasons in 2019 and 2020. Smith still has more than $11 million in guaranteed salary remaining on his deal.
On March 9, Smith appeared to say goodbye to the Vikings in a tweet, thanking the organization for “an amazing season and experience.” However, sources indicated that the team had no plans to release him and that trade discussions were possible. The likelihood of a trade increased when the Vikings signed pass-rusher Marcus Davenport on the first day of the NFL’s free agent negotiating period.
Smith signed a three-year, $42 million free agent contract with the Vikings last spring. The team wanted him as an outside linebacker to pair with veteran Danielle Hunter in the 3-4 scheme favored by new coach Kevin O’Connell. Smith started the 2022 season strongly with 8.5 sacks in the first seven weeks but was slowed down by a chronic knee injury and managed only 1.5 sacks for the remainder of the regular season.
The Browns have already added several players to their defense in the offseason, including veteran defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, safety Juan Thornhill, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who will join Garrett and Smith in the defensive end rotation.
The trade was first reported by the NFL Network. With Smith’s addition to the team, the Browns are looking to further improve their defense and compete for a spot in the playoffs next season.
Leave a Reply