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How does the safety market impact Harrison Smith’s future?

The Minnesota Vikings have a decision to make with future Ring of Honor and potential Hall of Fame safety Harrison Smith. In 2023, the two sides agreed to a nearly $7 million paycut that kept him around. He rewarded them with a good season and helped lead the Vikings to the 17th-ranked scoring defense.

Smith has a salary cap hit of $19,215,882 with a base salary of $14.45 million. This is similar to what his cap numbers looked like last year before it dropped to $7.5 million. The Vikings will likely approach him for another paycut. SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson said as much during his weekly appearance on the Minnesota Sports with Mackey and Judd podcast.

“At this point, I’ll be surprised [if Smith retires]. He took a pretty decent paycut a year ago. To me, he’d have to take an even bigger paycut so we will see how that remains to be seen how that plays out. I’m just saying, I’d be pretty darn surprised if he just walks away… He loves playing for Brian Flores. Brian Flores loves him. But can he win at the level he wants to win at here in 2024. That, to me, is the question to ponder; not whether or not he is going to retire.”

That is a similar sentiment to what happened last year with his last pay cut. No matter what, Smith will have a cap charge of at least $3,915,882 due to his prorated bonus. If they were to cut or trade him, that cap hit would be $7,831,766. Those are important to note, as is a cut would save the Vikings $11,384,116.

How much could the Vikings ask Smith to trim from his salary on a pay cut? That could be a significant amount when you take a look at the safety market. Heading into free agency, the amount of 2024 cash saved is nearly $40 million more than the second-highest position with $103.25 million in money saved for teams.

This could force Smith’s hand a little bit. Then again, he doesn’t strike me as a guy who wants to leave as Wolfson mentioned above. It will come down to how both sides will approach a potential pay cut. My best guess is that he will end up with a pay cut closer to what the cap saving would be if they cut him, likely around the $7-9 million mark. That would help the Vikings and Smith still has some gas left in the tank even at age 35 but a flush safety market that seems to be significantly undervalued by teams.

Should Smith take a pay cut? Considering the market out there, it might be in his best interest as he might not get a better contract elsewhere.

Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire