Several veterans like Patrick Peterson, Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks departed for new teams for various reasons. Smith, entering his 12th NFL season, also thought of taking the same path, garnering interest from the Cincinnati Bengals and other suitors, according to Star Tribune columnist Mark Craig.
“I thought about it for sure,” Smith said in an April 18 media conference. “It’s human nature. I think about other things and other places. So, yeah.”
But when the rubber met the road, Smith couldn’t go.
He took a significant pay cut to stay in Minnesota, slashing his $14.7 million due to $8 million with $2 million in incentives, per the Star Tribune.
His reason for staying? There’s not just one. But, “it felt right.”
“I kind of grew up here in a sense, so there’s tangible things I’ve thought about and intangible things,” Smith said. “They all kind of added up to I wanted to stay here and give it another crack. It’s tough to quantify everything, right? You try to because it makes you feel good, that there’s a right answer or wrong answer, but you don’t always know. It felt right to stay.”
Smith credited the culture ownership has installed in Minnesota, along with the hiring of defensive coordinator Brian Flores, who could help Smith recapture his days as the “Hitman” after having less freedom in the defense over the past few seasons.
“I’d say Flo was a big reason. I wouldn’t say it was one thing,” Smith said. “You definitely have to appreciate what the Wilfs have done with the Vikings, the leadership they have and the investment they have in the franchise and the community and being part of the community.”
Harrison Smith Should Revel in Brian Flores’ System
Early in his career, Smith was relied upon not only in coverage but as an extra man to rush the passer.
But last season in Ed Donatell’s defense, Smith rushed the passer on just 14 snaps, the lowest total in a season where he played at least nine games. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith averaged 39.8 pass-rush snaps a season in the Mike Zimmer era as the Vikings thrived off disguising the safety’s responsibilities in the box.
Smith still managed to make an impact in coverage last season, snagging five interceptions. However, he didn’t register a sack for the first time since 2013.
Flores, known for running Cover 0 looks that crowd the entire defense at the line of scrimmage, relies on safeties who can effectively rush the passer and break back into coverage upon the snap of the ball — something few safeties in league history have done better than the six-time Pro Bowler in Smith.
“I like his mentality,” Smith said of Flores. “I like, just the first few days, how he kind of relays information and how he thinks about things.”
Harrison Smith Announces His Return in Typical Fashion
Smith has remained a silent leader in the Vikings locker room since he was drafted in 2021. He is good for a few tweets a year.
However, when Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press reached out to Smith about his ongoing contract talks with the Vikings, Smith sent Tomason a photo of Prince — an indication that he’ll be back in Minnesota at least for one more season.
Smith has earned nearly $80 million in his career and still has three more seasons under contract in Minnesota, although this could be his last considering he’ll be 35 next season and his cap hit will be $19.2 million.