Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith has played among 26 different starters in the secondary during his 10 seasons as the Vikings’ longest-tenured player on the roster.
Smith, selected No. 29 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, was the elder statesman of a struggling Vikings secondary in 2020 that had just nine career starts under its belt.
He enters the final year of his contract this season among a bevy of veterans who are also seeking new deals in 2022. Extending Smith was a high priority this offseason for many pundits. However, reloading the defense by spending nearly $50 million has taken the highest priority by Minnesota so far.
Smith, 30, remains optimistic.
“I don’t have a solid answer for you, but obviously I’ve been here going on 10 [seasons] and would love to be here in the future,” Smith said. “Going to look at those things and see what we can do. That’s about it right now.”
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Smith Sounds off on Having Patrick Peterson
Smith saw his streak of five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances snapped last season, playing over an inexperienced and injury-riddled cornerbacks group. While still snagging five picks last season, Smith wasn’t allowed to roam free as much as he has in the past. He has intercepted 28 passes in his career — ranking fourth among active players since 2011.
The only other player with 28 career interceptions in that span? Newly signed veteran cornerback and eight-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson.
The Vikings signed Peterson, Mackensie Alexander and Bashaud Breeland at cornerback and safety Xavier Woods as surefire contributors in the secondary to help turn around the defense that allowed the fourth-most points in the league a season ago.
Smith spoke on how having a veteran like Peterson could help the unit make strides in 2021 as both ball-hawking veterans look for a stellar 2021 season.
“We were pretty young at corner last year. A lot of good players but just young,” Smith said during minicamp this month, per the Star Tribune. “There’s not a ton of guys like Pat out there, but having a guy like that come in at corner is big, not only his play, which is top notch, but just his presence and his knowledge, he can pass on to the young guys. Obviously safeties, corners, we’re always working together, so having vets on the outside and deep and young guys, it’s a good mix and we can learn a lot from each other.”
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Smith, Vikings’ Defense Hits Free Agency Soon
The Vikings have shown they’re ready for a serious run in 2021 with its offseason spending so far. Whatever may play out remains to be seen, but Minnesota will have to make many difficult decisions down the line.
Smith, Peterson, Alexander, and Woods all hit free agency next spring in the secondary alone. Anthony Barr is also on the final year of his restructured contract, while Danielle Hunter also has a crucial date to get an extension worked out by next March with the Vikings after restructuring his deal in June.
The 2022 salary cap is expected to go north of $200 million after the 2021 cap took a dip down to $182.5 million due to the pandemic.
There will be more funds, but many may move on to get the most out of their next deals depending on player performance.