3-Time Vikings Pro Bowler’s Home Sale Sparks Questions About His Future

Kevin O'Connell

Getty Vikings edge rusher Za'Darius Smith put his Minnesota home on the market amid offseason speculation surrounding his future with the team.

Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is preparing to sell his house in Eagan, Minnesota, prompting questions surrounding the three-time Pro Bowler’s future with the Vikings.

The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling reported on February 17 that Smith’s home is listed as “coming soon” on the real estate market.

Although Smith selling his home isn’t a certainty that he won’t return to Minnesota, he also deleted all team-related photos from his Instagram account earlier this offseason.

The Vikings are currently $23.3 million over the salary cap and need to restructure several veteran contracts or part ways with a few household names.

Smith, 31, signed a three-year, $42 million contract last offseason with the Vikings, carries the fourth-highest cap hit ($15.5 million) on the team for next season.

Through the first seven games last season, Smith looked like the best offseason signing in the league. He led the NFL with 8.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss before fading late in the season. Smith, dealing with knee issues in the second half of the schedule, tallied just 1.5 sacks in the final 10 games of the regular season.

Coming off his third Pro Bowl, is an affordable edge rusher at this stage in his career. His contract ranks 22nd among edge rushers. Smith’s contract offers the most cap savings of any veteran player if he is cut or traded before June 1. The Vikings would only have to eat $3.3 million in dead cap by cutting Smith, creating $12.2 million in cap space.

Minnesota will need to create ample cap room to help newly hired defensive coordinator Brian Flores rebuild the defense that could see as many as nine new starters.

“Preparing to sell a house, of course, doesn’t mean that a player is gone; there’d certainly seem to be a fit for Smith in the Vikings’ defense with Brian Flores,” Goessling tweeted. “But they have a decision to make on him in the next month, with $5.05M of his base salary becoming guaranteed on 3/19.”

Za’Darius Smith Fits the Mold of What Brian Flores Wants

In an introductory media conference on February 15, Flores detailed what he looks for in personnel that fits his defense.

“I’m big on versatility. Guys being able to play multiple spots,” Flores said. “In order to do that, we’ve got to get them coached up to play those multiple spots. We’ll cast a wide net to see what we do best, and we’ll try to highlight the things our players do well.”

Flores didn’t name a single player in his first media conference, leaving all possibilities on the table of who may stay or go this offseason.

However, Smith is arguably the most versatile defender the Vikings have as a rover pass-rusher — pressuring both on the interior and edge last season.

Vikings Player Stocks With Flores

The Donatell defense did nobody any favors last season as many Vikings veteran defenders had mediocre seasons under a scheme that delivered the fifth-worst scoring defense and allowed the second-most yards in the league last season.

While the knee-jerk reaction is to burn it all down and cut everyone, Minnesota doesn’t have the resources to rebuild the defense in a year. Several veterans will get another chance to right the defense that has suffered since 2020.

Flores’ penchant for Cover 0 blitz makes Harrison Smith a vital piece to the defense. Eric Kendricks, who two years ago was one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL, may also have a redemptive season under Flores after appearing to be a step behind for much of the 2022 season.

Pairing those two veterans with 2021 draftees Lewis Cine and Brian Asamoah could provide veteran mentorship to two of the defense’s biggest investments of the future.

Meanwhile, the cornerbacks room is where the Vikings could look extremely different. Starters Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley and Chandon Sullivan are all pending free agents. Rookies Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans both suffered season-ending injuries that capped their first-year development.

Cam Dantzler is the only cornerback with considerable starting experience currently on the roster. Flores requires more man coverage and athletic cornerbacks to run his scheme, which could bode well for Dantzler entering a contract year.

But beyond Dantzler, there are many questions facing the cornerbacks group that could use a few reinforcements this offseason.

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