Free agency is underway, and the Vikings have started repairing the holes on the team with quite possibly the biggest move of the off-season so far. That transaction happened on March 22nd. On that day they signed linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Smith has a known reputation for getting to the quarterback. With changes happening all over, the Vikings will be moving to a 3-4 Defense in 2022. With the new 3-4 defense impending, the team will want to have fast players on the edge that can make a difference. Smith will pair up with Danielle Hunter on the outside for the upcoming season, and help lead the defense. In the locker room, Smith will be looked at as a veteran and a leader. Having him in there should help the younger players, and motivate them to get better. Ultimately, it should lead to a fast and strong defense in Minnesota.
From Kentucky to Baltimore
Smith played football at Kentucky in 2013 and 2014 where he had a great two seasons. In those two he had 119 total tackles, 11 sacks, and two fumble recoveries. After his senior year, he would head into the 2015 NFL Draft. The Baltimore Ravens selected Smith in the 4th round where he would make an immediate impact. In his four seasons in Baltimore, he started in only 16 total games and yet put up nice numbers. He was an excellent addition and partner for Terrell Suggs. In his four seasons, he had 71 solo tackles, 18.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and 52 quarterback hits.
Playing In The Frozen Tundra
After leaving Baltimore in 2018, Smith headed to Wisconsin where he’d play for the Green Bay Packers. Again, he was an immediate impact player for them. Smith played for the Packers from 2019-to 2021. In week one of the 2021 season against the Saints, Smith reinjured his back that he had been battling in training camp. That resulted in Green Bay placing him on the injured reserve list. After sitting on the IR for the remainder of the regular season, Smith was able to return upon the start of the playoffs.
In the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Smith tallied up 77 solo tackles, 26 sacks, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and 60 quarterback hits. Having an average of 12 sacks per season is not something to overlook. As a result of great play, Smith was rewarded with back-to-back Pro Bowl selections. Even with the Packers not re-signing him, you knew Smith wouldn’t be a free agent very long with those types of numbers.
Joining The Vikings’ Ship
As mentioned, the Vikings signed Smith to a three-year, $42 Million contract, just a week after leaving Green Bay. On the Vikings roster, he will be playing on the outside with Danielle Hunter in the new 3-4 Vikings defense. There is a universe where Smith is able to replicate that same energy for the Vikings he had with the Ravens and Packers.
As fans and teams from all over the NFL took notice of Za’Darius Smith being a free agent, it seemed that Smith might be returning to Baltimore. After meeting with the Ravens again, it was being sent out that he would again be a Raven. That changed quickly after Smith opted out of the contract negotiation. Smith would ultimately make a different decision. Many had noticed that he had taken to social media with a very popular quote Vikings fans would be familiar with. He tweeted, “Meet at the quarterback,” something the Purple People Eaters did weekly. With Ed Donatell running the defense for the Vikings, it will be interesting to see the new schemes and packages he draws up for them to get to the quarterback. If Smith and Hunter can stay healthy, they will be a nightmare for opposing offenses.