6-Time Pro Bowler Takes Massive Pay Cut to Stay With Vikings

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings speaks to the media during the NFL Combine in March 2023.

Money isn’t always everything, as evidenced by a deal the Minnesota Vikings made Thursday to keep a tentpole player on the roster in 2023.

After exploring other options around the NFL, safety Harrison Smith agreed to take a significant pay cut to remain with the Vikings next season. Kevin Seifert of ESPN posted the news via Twitter on March 16.

“The Vikings and Harrison Smith have a new agreement that will allow Smith to continue with the team,” Seifert reported.

Smith Stays With Vikings Out of Respect For Fanbase, Intrigue in Brian Flores

Harrison smith

GettySafety Harrison Smith of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 20, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Smith had been playing on a four-year deal worth $64 million that he inked with Minnesota two seasons ago. The 34-year-old safety was set to cost the team more than $19 million against the salary cap this year, with ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler reporting on March 12 that he would likely need to agree to a pay cut or the Vikings would cut Smith instead.

On Thursday, Smith agreed to a deal that essentially cuts his salary in half. Smith’s new contract will pay him $8 million this upcoming season, with up to $2 million in incentives, per a report from Alec Lewis of The Athletic.

“Smith is staying in Minnesota for a few reasons. First, he adores the organization that drafted him in 2012 as well as the fanbase,” Lewis wrote. “Second, he was intrigued by newly hired defensive coordinator Brian Flores, whose aggressive style of defense fits his skill set. And third, Smith was satisfied with many of the Vikings’ other moves — especially the recent ones that signaled the team is willing to compete in 2023.”

Smith has spent his entire 11-year career with the Vikings, earning trips to six Pro Bowls and winning All-Pro honors twice. He has amassed 946 tackles, including 43 tackles for loss, 83 passes defensed, 34 interceptions, 16.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles and four defensive touchdowns over that span, per Pro Football Reference.

Vikings Star RB Dalvin Cook Taking Opposite Approach of Smith

Dalvin Cook

GettyRunning back Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before a game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

While Smith decided to take less to remain with the only NFL team he’s ever known, running back Dalvin Cook is taking the opposite approach.

A four-time Pro Bowler in his own right, Cook has also spent the entirety of his six-year career in Minnesota. He is entering the third season of a five-year, $63 million contract and is set to earn $11 million in 2023 while counting for $14.1 million against the cap.

The team asked the running back earlier in the offseason to take less money and remain with the franchise, though Cook declined Minnesota’s request for a pay cut. The general belief now is that the Vikings will look to trade Cook. If they are unable, the team can save $5.9 million against the salary cap by cutting him prior to June 1, or save $9 million by cutting him with a post-June 1 designation, per Over The Cap.

Dealing Cook will be simpler for the Vikings after the team signed his backup Alexander Mattison to a two-year deal worth $7 million total, and up to $8 million with incentives, earlier in the week.

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