Source Browns trade for Vikings pass rusher ZaDarius Smith

Source – Browns trade for Vikings pass rusher Za’Darius Smith – ESPN – ESPN

Jake TrotterESPN Staff Writer May 12, 2023 8:06pm ET3 minutes read

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BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns beefed up their defense on Friday, agreeing to a trade deal with the Minnesota Vikings for three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Minnesota will get two fifth-round picks (2024 and 2025) as part of the deal, the source said. In addition to Smith, Cleveland regains a 2025 sixth-round pick and a 2025 seventh-round pick.

Smith, 30, will team up with All-Pro Myles Garrett to give Cleveland one of the NFL’s most successful pass-rushing duos. According to a study by ESPN Stats & Information, Smith is one of five players to have sacked more than 10 in three of the past four seasons; Garrett is one of the others.

Smith had 10 sacks with the Vikings in 2022. In 2019 and 2020, Smith averaged 26 sacks for the Green Bay Packers in back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. He still has more than $11 in guaranteed salary left over from his contract.

On March 9, Smith tweeted what appeared to be a farewell message to the Vikings, thanking the organization for “a great season and experience.” However, sources said at the time that Smith was under contract and the team had no plans to release him, hinting at the possibility of trade talks.

The likelihood of a trade increased when the Vikings reached a settlement with pass rusher Marcus Davenport on day one of the NFL’s free-agent hearing period.

Smith signed a three-year, $42 million contract with the Vikings last spring as a free agent. He reportedly first agreed with the Baltimore Ravens after his release from the Packers. The Vikings wanted him as an outside linebacker to work with veteran Danielle Hunter in new coach Kevin O’Connell’s 3-4 system.

Smith had a strong start to the season, producing 8.5 sacks in the first seven weeks, but a chronic knee injury slowed him down and he only managed 1.5 sacks for the rest of the regular season.

The Browns have already made several reinforcements to their defense this offseason. Previously in free agency, they signed veteran defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, safety Juan Thornhill and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who will join Garrett and Smith to round out Cleveland’s defensive end rotation.

NFL Network first reported on the trade deal.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.