There were some concerns about Za’Darius Smith’s health following a trade to the Cleveland Browns but the Pro Bowl pass-rusher assured he’s feeling revved up and ready to go.
Smith got off to a scorching start last season, collecting 9.5 sacks through the first nine games with the Minnesota Vikings. However, his production fell off from there, notching just a half-sack the rest of the season. That was in part due to a knee injury Smith was playing through and he limped to the finish line of the season.
With some rest this offseason, he feels healthy and is ready for a fresh start.
“I couldn’t rest last year because every game I think I was making like $200,000 just to dress out,” Smith said from Browns OTAs on Wednesday. “You would dress out too. … That was different for me. I had a chance to rest my knee, get some rehab. I trained with my trainer in Orlando and I’ve been out here working and I haven’t felt nothing. I feel perfectly fine.”
That’s good news for the Browns, who are hoping Smith can churn out another solid year playing opposite Myles Garrett. His resume would indicate anything but a double-digit sack total would be a disappointment, especially playing in Jim Schwartz’s attack-focused scheme. Smith has notched at least 10 sacks in three of his last four seasons, the lone hole being the 2021 season where he missed almost the entire campaign due to a back injury.
“I just play my role. When you go to a new team you gotta be all about the team and helping the team win,” Smith said. “Hopefully I get double-digit sacks again this year.”
Za’Darius Smith Sets High Bar for Partnership With Myles Garrett
The spot opposite of Garrett on the defensive line was a key hole the Browns had to address this offseason. It was previously occupied by Jadeveon Clowney but the former top pick will be moving on after burning his bridges with the franchise on his way out, criticizing the coaching staff and Garrett.
The Browns also signed Ogbo Okoronkwo this offseason and he was the assumed starter prior to the trade for Smith. He’ll still play a significant role in the rotation and gain some valuable insight playing alongside a pair of Pro Bowlers.
As for his partnership with Garrett, Smith is setting a high bar.
“I can’t wait to be out there with Myles,” Smith said. “He texted me that he can’t wait to get going and hopefully we can be the best duo in the league.“
Browns Young Guns Eager to Learn From Za’Darius Smith, Myles Garrett
The trade for Smith was an impactful one for the Browns and it came at minimal cost. Cleveland sent a pair of fifth-round picks to the Vikings for Smith. The Browns also got 2025 sixth and seventh-round picks in the package.
His production on the field has been evident but Smith’s presence as a veteran leader will also be valued.
“For me, it was definitely exciting,” Browns rookie Isaiah McGuire said on May 13. “You know, me being a rookie coming in, having the opportunity to learn from a great vet such as Darius as well as the other people in the room is truly an honor and a blessing. I’m excited to learn from those people, pick their brains and just improve overall.”
Read More About the Browns
• Ex-Browns QB Baker Mayfield Sounds Off on Next Challenge
• Browns Superstar Projected to Win NFL’s Highest Honor in 2023
• Cleveland Browns Excluded From New NFL Program