Breakout Starter Addresses His Questionable Future With Vikings

Irv Smith Jr.

Getty Vikings veteran receiver Adam Thielen addressed Irv Smith Jr. (84) dropping a pass in the first half of an eventual 24-7 loss to the Eagles on September 19.

Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. enters the final year of his rookie contract without an extension in the works.

The 2019 second-round pick out of Alabama flashed promise his rookie season, notching a franchise record 36 catches by a rookie tight end. He was the presumptive replacement for Kyle Rudolph after the Vikings released the veteran tight end after 10 seasons.

Smith was dubbed a breakout candidate the past two seasons as the new starting tight end in Minnesota. But after suffering a season-ending torn meniscus injury before the start of the 2021 season, Smith has fallen from grace after not seeing the playing field in 20 months.

The new regime under first-year Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has yet to award a second contract to any Vikings player on a rookie deal, with the 2019 draft class offering that opportunity next offseason.

However, it appears Smith will have to prove his worth this season after addressing his future with the team.

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Smith Has ‘No Clue’ About an Extension With Vikings

Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press reported on September 5 that Smith has “no clue” about the potential to sign a contract extension ahead of the season opener on September 11 against the Green Bay Packers.

With Rick Spielman as general manager for the past 10 years, the Vikings generally worked out extensions before the start of the regular season.

It’s unclear if Adofo-Mensah will follow that same strategy, but it’s likely the Vikings general manager would like to get a glimpse of Smith in game action before securing him to a second contract.

In two full seasons of action, Smith has 66 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. He enters a contract year as the No. 1 tight end option for the first time in his career.

“It’s definitely a big year. I’ve set a lot of high expectations for myself — the players on this team too,” Smith said in a September 5 interview. “At the end of the day, it’s football. It’s going out there, competing, having fun playing the game you love. That’s how I look at it, but of course, there’s definitely some pressure.”

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Smith Says He’s Ready for Season Opener

Smith affirmed he’s trending towards playing on Sunday against the Packers after dodging a serious injury in training camp, confirming he’s a “lock” to play in the season opener.

Smith suffered a thumb injury in August that required surgery, however, he’s worked his way back to catching passes at practice. He said a personal goal of his is to play all 17 games after not playing since the season finale of the 2020 season.

“Yes, stay healthy. I put in a lot of work throughout this time. Shout out to everybody who’s helped me along this journey,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of people and I wouldn’t be here without y’all, so thank you.”

Smith added that he’s continuing to play with tape on his hand to support his thumb as he continues to progress through his recovery plan.

O’Connell also said he feels “confident as ever” that Minnesota will have Smith for the season opener, shifting the fourth-year tight end’s focus to the contract season ahead.

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