Minnesota Vikings headed toward releasing Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith

We’ve already seen the Minnesota Vikings make what some might deem to be tough decisions by letting go longtime core members of the team like Eric Kendricks and hometown hero Adam Thielen.

Now, rumors are swirling that another fan favorite could be on the chopping block. According to KSTP’s Darren Wolfson, “signs point” to the Vikings releasing six-time Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith from the roster too. If so, it would be the end of the longest-tenured current member of the Vikings’ reign after 11 seasons with the team.

Yet, Wolfson also indicated nothing is set in stone, and Smith could agree to a contract restructure. What we do know is that the 34-year-old won’t be brought back at his current cap hit of $19.1 million.

All of these moves are being done in an effort to greatly reduce the team’s salary cap number in 2023. The Vikings are currently $7 million over the 2023 spending limit, and the offseason hasn’t even begun yet. With a likely record-breaking contract extension for superstar Justin Jefferson coming this offseason, clearing money off the books both now and for years to come will be crucial.

Yet, parting ways with each of these former franchise cornerstones also allows the Vikings to eventually become active in free agency once the legal tampering period begins on March 12. Just how much space they can create will ultimately have a direct impact on how many players they can add in free agency.

Related: Former Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant passes away at 95

If Harrison Smith is released, what’s next for Minnesota Vikings?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
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While no one really wants to see Harry the Hitman move on, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah does at least have a backup plan ready to go. Last season’s selection of Georgia’s Lewis Cine with the 32nd pick was supposed to give him a season ideally starting next to and learning from Smith, but now he could be set to replace him in 2023.

The Vikings also retain 24-year-old Camryn Bynum, who started all 17 games at safety last season, tallying 81 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass deflections. Bynum actually won the starting gig over Cine last season before the rookie suffered a season-ending lower leg fracture in Week 3 in London in 2022.

Now with Cine expected to be back at 100%, this young tandem could be the starting safety duo for Brian Flores’s defense next season. Backup Josh Metellus also remains on the roster and will likely continue seeing a majority of his snaps making an impact on special teams while sprinkling in on defense.

Related: Minnesota Vikings mock draft 2023: Rebuilding the Brian Flores-led defense

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