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Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowler Za’Darius Smith demands a release: A look at 3 ideal landing spots

Three-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Za’Darius Smith signed a three-year, $42 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings last spring.

Smith, 30, took to social media to hint that he had been released by the Vikings. Shortly thereafter, reports came out that he actually requested his release from Minnesota, something the Vikigns don’t plan on granting.

The Vikings are in cost-cutting mode. They already released fellow Pro Bowl defender Eric Kendricks and could soon move on from longtime star wide receiver Adam Thielen.

With that said, the team doesn’t have interest in moving off someone who starred in 2022. A Pro Bowler last season with Minnesota, Smith recorded 24 quarterback hits, 15 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.

At this point, it’s safe to assume that Minnesota demanded Smith restructure his contract. The star edge rusher is slated to count $15.49 million against the cap in 2023. releasing him would actually save the Vikings north of $12 million.

Despite being on the wrong side of 30, there is going to be an absolutely huge market for someone of Za’Darius Smith’s ilk should his request for a release be granted. Below, we look at three ideal landing spots as he hopes to hit free agency for the second consecutive offseason.

Related: Sportsnaut’s top 2023 NFL free agents

Kansas City Chiefs replace Frank Clark

za'darius smith free agent landing spots
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City saved a whopping $21 million against the 2023 NFL salary cap by releasing Frank Clark earlier in the offseason. It was a move that the team needed to make in order to become cap compliant.

In no way does this mean that Kansas City won’t scour the NFL free agent market for an upgrade over the enigmatic Clark. Objectively, Smith would represent that upgrade.

  • Frank Clark stats (2022): 39 tackles (8 for loss), 13 QB hits, 5 sacks
  • Za’Darius Smith stats (2022): 44 tackles (11.5 for loss), 24 QB hits, 10 sacks

Having played both with his hands down in a 4-3 and as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, Smith is not scheme specific. He’d work extremely well in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme.

Related: 2023 NFL salary cap casualties

San Francisco 49ers bring in Za’Darius Smith

za'darius smith free agent landing spots
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco has some issues outside of defending NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa out on the edge. Both Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu are slated to become free agents, meaning youngster Drake Jackson (three sacks) is San Francisco’s second-best option behind Bosa on the roster right now.

General manager John Lynch has indicated that San Francisco will be looking to add pass rushers to the mix once NFL free agency opens. And while the team is banking on veterans taking one-year, prove-it deals, changing that philosophy for Smith would make sense for the Super Bowl contenders. Having him team up with Bosa and Arik Armstead on the defensive line would be a headache for opposing offenses.

Related: 2023 NFL salary cap tracker

Jacksonville Jaguars go big-game hunting in free agency

za'darius smith
Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

The upstart Jags are coming off a surprising appearance in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. They have a young franchise quarterback and several other core pieces set to help them improve moving forward. One area that could be a need is out on the edge.

Josh Allen led Jaguars defenders with seven sacks. Rookie Travon Walker recorded only 3.5 and seems better suited to play inside. Based on his track record, Smith would be an absolute goldmine for Jacksonville.

  • Za’Darius Smith stats (2015-22): 271 tackles, 68 for loss, 136 QB hits, 54.5 sacks

Smith has registered double-digit sacks in each of the past three full season he’s played. The veteran has been as consistent as they come and would be an anchor in Duval.


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