Vikings trade Za’Darius Smith to Browns for two future draft choices

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith (55) celebrates his sack of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) during the second quarter of an NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. Minnesota b ((John Autey / MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images))

The Za’Darius Smith era with the Minnesota Vikings is over after just one season.

As the Vikings held minicamp for rookies on Friday at TCO Performance Center, the team reportedly traded the veteran outside linebacker to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for fifth-round draft picks in 2024 and 2025. The Vikings are also sending sixth and seventh-round picks in 2025 as part of the deal.

The trade was first reported on Friday by Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport with NFL Network.

The Vikings had to do something, up against the salary cap and having to start signing their 2023 draft class to rookie contracts. Smith was due to make 15.5 million this year with Minnesota. The speculation on his future started when he put his Twin Cities home up for sale after the season. He then posted a thank you to Vikings fans on social media, which felt like a goodbye.

Smith reportedly asked for his release from the Vikings to test free agency, and instead they found a trade partner. Smith will now by defensive line teammates with Myles Garret, a year after teaming up with Danielle Hunter on the Vikings’ "Edge Department."

Smith’s 2022 season got off to a fast start, with 9.5 sacks in the first nine games. That included a three-sack day in a win over the Arizona Cardinals. But he had just a half sack over his final eight games, as he also dealt with a knee injury at the time.

The writing for Smith might have been on the wall after the Vikings signed Saints defensive lineman Marcus Davenport in free agency. They also added former Packers’ defensive tackle Dean Lowry.

Neither the Vikings or the Browns have confirmed the trade for Smith.

The Vikings might not be done shedding salary, either. Running back Dalvin Cook is due to make $14 million against the cap, and is unlikely to take a pay cut for the 2023 season. He’s been the subject of trade rumors throughout the offseason.