49ers ‘Dream Scenario’ Floated for $42 Million Pro Bowl Pass Rusher

Za'Darius, San Francisco 49ers

Getty Za'Darius is a potential trade target for the San Francisco 49ers.

As the San Francisco 49ers prepare for the start of free agency, John Lynch and company are surely scouring the NFL looking for the best players and the best deals they can add to their roster. But could the team instead address some of their needs via trade? Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report certainly thinks so, as he identified a trade that would be a “dream scenario” for Kyle Shanahan’s team.

“In a dream scenario, the Vikings would make Za’Darius Smith available as part of their salary-purging efforts,” Knox wrote. “Trading Smith before June 1 would save Minnesota $13.7 million in cap space, which would account for a large portion of its $21.3 million cap deficit.”

“San Francisco, which has just $3.2 million in projected cap space, would have to create some financial wiggle room, but Smith would be an ideal addition. He logged 44 tackles, 10 sacks and 37 quarterback pressures this past season and would be a tremendous complement to Bosa on the edge.”

“Smith would also likely make a more immediate impact than a drafted rookie, especially considering San Francisco doesn’t have first- or second-round selections.”

Could the 49ers take advantage of the Vikings’ cap situation, even if it means having to do some creative maneuvering of their own? It all depends on how Lynch values a player like Smith and how he would like to spend his team’s resources. If Lynch likes Smith’s fit as much as Knox does, there’s a chance he could work the phones and make a deal.

Za’Darius Smith Would Fill an Obvious Need for the 49ers

Discussing why the 49ers would want to trade for Smith, Knox noted that despite having the Defensive Player of the Year in Nick Bosa, the 49ers really didn’t get much production from the bevy of linemen they lined up on the opposite side from him. Adding a certified pro like Smith would help to solve that issue.

“The 49ers might have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in edge-rusher Nick Bosa, but they should still look to bolster their pass rush this offseason,” Knox wrote. “Bosa (18.5 sacks) accounted for 42 percent of the Niners’ quarterback takedowns in 2022, and San Francisco could potentially lose several complementary pass-rushers in free agency. Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, Jordan Willis, and Kerry Hyder Jr. had 12.5 combined sacks this past season and are all slated to become free agents.”

If the Vikings decide they are done with Smith but would like to get something back for his services, Knox noted that the 49ers have three compensatory picks and thus would be able to offer up a package that sends something back Minnesota’s way.

“Given Minnesota’s need to create cap space, a third-round pick or two might be able to get a deal done,” Knox wrote. “San Francisco just so happens to have a trio of third-round picks this year, comp picks awarded for the hirings of Robert Saleh, Martin Mahew, Mike McDaniel, and Ran Carthon by other franchises.”

Would it be hard to fold Smith into the 49ers’ current cap situation, which sits at roughly $8 million according to Over The Cap? Yes, Smith’s contract, even after Minnesota eats $3.33 million of his contract in dead money, would still be in the $12.16 million range. Still, if Lynch decides to restructure some contract, with Christian McCaffrey’s the most logical choice, Smith could be an interesting name to keep an eye on, especially if he gets released.

Za’Darius Smith Just Put His House up for Sale in Minnesota

While there’s no guarantee that the Vikings will release or trade Smith in order to free up salary cap space, according to Bring me the Sport’s Joe Nelson, the Vikings’ edge rusher did just list his Minnesota house on the market and did so for a very interesting reason.

“The 3,846-square-foot home in Eagan is listed as a “coming soon” property and will hit the market for $795,000. The home has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and a three-car attached garage on 0.47 acres,” Nelson wrote. “The listing says the home is “only available due to relocation,” which begs the question: Where is Za’Darius Smith going? The fact that his home is for sale doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be back with the Vikings in 2023, but Smith’s large contract coupled with Minnesota’s strained salary cap can’t be ignored.”

“Smith signed a three-year, $42 million deal with the Vikings in 2022. He carries a $15.1 million cap hit next season and $5.05 million of that becomes guaranteed on March 19. Cutting Smith before June 1 would save Minnesota $13.6 million against the cap, according to Over The Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald.”

“Smith’s 78 pressures in the regular season ranked among the best in the NFL, though his production dwindled in the second half of the season. He averaged 5.5 pressures per game in Weeks 1-10, and then just 3.8 per game over the final six weeks – and he generated only two pressures in the Wild Card loss to the Giants.”

Could Smith simply be moving to a different house or another neighborhood that’s closer to the Vikings’ facility? Potentially so, but listing his house this close to when $5.05 million of his contract becomes guaranteed certainly can’t be a good sign for Minnesota fans hoping to keep the former Green Bay Packer around for one more season.

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