In a promising offseason for the Minnesota Vikings, edge rusher Za’Darius Smith was probably the most notable player addition. Smith and the Vikings locked in a 3 year, $42 million contract, with $11.5 million of it being fully guaranteed. As a fan of the Vikings, I–along with many others– am very glad that he is no longer on Green Bay, but even more glad that he will now be rushing the passer for my team. With all this being said let’s give a more detailed look at Smith, and what to expect in his first year here in Minnesota. Za’Darius Smith was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL draft to the Baltimore Ravens. After finding some success in his first four years, Smith moved on to the Green Bay Packers in 2019, where he signed a 4 year, $66 million contract. This is where his career really took off. In his first two seasons with the Packers, Smith achieved a total of 26 total sacks which resulted in two pro-bowl selections, and a second-team all-pro in 2020. However, in the following year, Smith showed up to training camp with a back injury that ultimately led to him missing all, but two games of the 2021 Packers season. Seeing too much risk, the Green Bay Packers released Smith in March of 2022. Smith signed to the Vikings just eight days later. Now, looking forward, I think it is safe to say that this will be a great season for Za’Darius Smith. Reason number one obviously being that he’s shown it before. But to add on that, his two most successful seasons were with Mike Pettine as his defensive coordinator. Pettine is now the assistant head coach for the Minnesota Vikings, and it is expected that he will play a big role in the Vikings defense this season. To follow up, Smith is in a perfect situation for not only the average edge rusher, but also for himself. This will now be his third 3-4 defense that he has been on, as the Vikings are switching to 3-4. Smith also has Danielle Hunter, a very promising edge rusher, on the other side to draw attention. We cannot fully assume how much pressure the Vikings are going to apply in a general sense, because Ed Donatell, the new Defensive Coordinator in Minnesota, prefers less, while the Vikings are known for bringing more. Whichever way, we can assume more than enough one-on-ones for Za’darius Smith, which I am looking forward to him taking advantage of.
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