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Minnesota Vikings’ interest in Za’Darius Smith hints at change of philosophy

Vincent Frank

New Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has found himself in salary cap hell in his first offseason with the organization.

The entire Kirk Cousins situation before he signed an extension in Minnesota took up most of the news. However, cap gymnastics has trickled down to the rest of the roster. The hope is to fill out a 53 under new head coach Kevin O’Connell that can compete for a playoff spot.

Enter into the equation Minnesota’s interest in Pro Bowl pass rusher Za’Darius Smith after one of the top remaining NFL free agents backed out of a deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Smith visited with the Vikings on Monday and seemed to hint something could be in the cards.

There’s a darn good chance that Smith will end up signing with the Vikings after spending the past three seasons with the division-rival Green Bay Packers. This interest also signals a change of philosophy from Adofo-Mensah and Co.

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Minnesota Vikings now looking to pair Za’Darius Smith up with Danielle Hunter

minnesota vikings interest in za'darius smith
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

That’s a pretty big takeaway here. There were widespread rumors that the Vikings would trade Hunter before his $18 million roster bonus for the 2022 season became guaranteed on Sunday. That did not happen.

Minnesota could still look to trade Hunter while taking a huge dead cap hit, that’s increasingly unlikely. Rather, Adofo-Mensah is looking to build a bully up front. It’s not much different than his time in the San Francisco 49ers’ front office.

Those are some eye-opening numbers. Teaming these two up with one another also wouldn’t come without risk. Hunter has played in all of seven games the past two seasons due to injury. As for Smith, he missed all but one game last season with the Packers.

Minnesota Vikings salary cap and Za’Darius Smith interest

Minnesota currently finds itself $2.41 million under the cap. That’s not even enough room to sign its draft class. Considering Smith is looking at $10-plus million annually, something would have to be done from a financial perspective.

Previously, rumors indicated that the Minnesota Vikings were open for business when it comes to trading aging veterans. That list included the likes of wide receiver Adam Thielen, linebacker Eric Kendricks and running back Dalvin Cook.

Given their interest in Smith, it now stands to reason contract restructures will be the name of the game here.

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Per Over the Cap, Minnesota can save north of $26 million against the cap by restructuring the contracts of Thielen, Kendricks and Cook. That would be more than enough to sign Smith while filling other holes as the second wave of NFL free agency gets going.

Either way, Minnesota’s interest in Smith does indicate a change of philosophy from within the Vikings’ new front office.

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