Vikings trade Smith to the Browns for draft picks

Mike Florio and Chris Simms break down the Vikings’ move to send Za’Darius Smith to Cleveland for fifth-round picks in 2024 and 2025 and analyze how Minnesota’s defense has improved this offseason.

Video Transcript

- They will be going back to Philadelphia without Za'Darius Smith, who had 10 sacks last year for the Minnesota Vikings and has been a very great pass rusher. He was with the Ravens and he was with the Packers. Joined the Vikings last year.

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He wanted out after one season, made it clear that he wanted out. The Vikings traded him Friday night. The Browns get Smith plus a 2025 sixth rounder and a 2025 seventh rounder in exchange for a 2024 fifth rounder and a 2025 fifth rounder. This is one of those my son and I were talking about.

It's the grains of rice trade where, oh, you have to give us a pick, and we give you a pick, and we're going to balance it all out that way and make it look like a fair deal. Look, the bottom line is he wanted out, and they unloaded his salary. I think he had some guarantees in there this year.

So they found a way to work it out. They get some value for a guy who doesn't want to be there. And my position has been all along-- all due respect to Za'Darius Smith. Great player. You can get rid of the entire defense, and it's not going to be any worse than it was last year.

- No.


- Collectively, it was ass last year. So, Za'Darius doesn't want to be there. We don't want hostages.

We want volunteers. You move them on to the Browns, and he becomes now, presumably, the latest Jadeveon Clowney. It didn't work with Clowney the past couple of years across from Myles Garrett. Now we'll see if Za'Darius Smith can get it done across from one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

- Yeah, no. I mean, not surprised, right? Kind of one of these things where you just wondered, when is something going to happen?

It has kind of been on everybody's radar. Knew he wasn't happy. They got Danielle Hunter.


They got Marcus Davenport in free agency, right? Those-- you know, that seemed like when they got Marcus Davenport, I thought, well, that's the replacement for Za'Darius Smith, right?

So, they played the exact same position. So it just seemed like it was a matter of time. And you wondered how it was all going to get figured out. And here comes the Cleveland Browns.

And to your point, yeah. It's their new version of Jadeveon Clowney but maybe even a guy that has got more pass rush value than Jadeveon Clowney the last few years. That's been maybe the exciting thing. Now, he's getting up there in age, and we're getting the injury--

- That knee. There's that knee.


- There's the knee.

- That knee keeps popping up.

- Right, right. You have the back two years ago, right, wasn't it? So, yeah, he is certainly in an age where teams start to worry.

But for Cleveland Browns themselves, I think this was, like, the one glaring area of their team where you looked at to go, who's going to line up opposite of Myles Garrett? What are they going to do here, you know? they got Jim Schwartz, new D coordinator there in town.

And it did seem like they were incomplete. And obviously, this is why. They had this on their radar. They got it done, and I think it's a good fit for them overall.


- So, the Vikings defense last year, which was abysmal-- they were 13 and 4, but they allowed more points than they scored. They were ranked 31st, I think, in average yardage per game allowed. They've lost Smith, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who signed with the Browns early in free agency.

- Yeah.

- Linebacker Eric Kendricks was cut. He landed with the Chargers. Patrick Peterson was a free agent. He signed with the Steelers. Chandon Sullivan, I think, recently signed with the-- was it the-- I can't remember.

- I'd have to look it up.

- I can't remember who it was, but he signed with somebody not that long ago. Cameron Dantzler is now gone. They've added Marcus Davenport, first round pick of the Saints several years ago, and Byron Murphy, the former Cardinals defensive back.


They've added three guys in the draft as well. Again, it ain't going to be any worse than it was last year. This is Brian Flores. That's the difference. That's--

- That's the difference. Exactly.

- It's not scheme-driven. It's match-up driven. It's week after week teaching your guys what's necessary to go face the defense-- or the offense, excuse me-- that they will be seeing in the next game because what happened last year, by the end of the year, your system gets exposed.

- Exactly.

- We saw it against the Giant.

- Exactly.

- We've got it all figured out. We know how to beat it, and we're going to go beat it. And that's the thing that Kevin O'Connell told me last week as well. He probably spent too much time on the offense last year. He intends to spend more time working with the whole team this year.


- Right.

- Too defferential to Ed Donatell, too much delegation.

- Right.

- Take care of the offense. Let's just go out, score them.

- Yeah.

- You still have to pay some attention to the details.

- Sure, sure. I think he'll be more comfortable this year. I mean, you and I, we're both big Brian Flores fans. I mean, he's the man, in my opinion, and he's going to not only be better X's and O's and scheme-wise to all the things you were just talking about-- he's going to bring a different attitude in there. Brian Flores--

- It's a good balance. It's a good balance.

- It is.

- It's good cop, bad cop.

- Exactly.


- O'Connell's got a great way.

- He's the smart X's and O's, hey, check to this.

- Get along with everybody.

- I can get along with everybody. Brian Flores can be like, hey, no, F you. You got to line up right here, and we got to be tougher, right?

And that's what your defense needs. Defensive coaches, they usually got a little bit more of that edge like that where they can speak a little more frankly to their players than maybe the offensive side of the ball. And I think that's where you change.

And to your point, that's the biggest addition, you know? We got into no disguises, no blitzers, no creativity from your defense at all. I mean, we got to the point where we were talking to the games like the Patriots on Thanksgiving where they were going, the Vikings, their run defense wasn't even good, and they were playing pass defense, and the Patriots and other teams were like, so what?


You're so bad at pass defense, we're still going to throw it. We don't care how many people you drop back. So that's where I expect you to be a different team. But yeah, the talent levels, I don't know if it's quite there to think it's going to be like, oh, a top 10 defense or a top 12 defense.

- But how much better does it need to be for them to be better as a team? I don't think it puts them in position to compete with the Eagles and 49ers when you get to the postseason.

- Yeah.

- Last year, my position was the ultimate ceiling for the Vikings was get blown out in the divisional round. Probably the same this year.

- Yeah.

- They may not be 13 and 4. They may go a level higher than they went last year. They may have the defense that's able to slow down whoever they encounter in the wild card round.

But they've got a long way to go to be the team that can topple the Eagles or the 49ers.

- Yeah.

- Those are the clear class of the NFC. And we know injuries can change things and different factors, and there's always a team that we didn't expect to be good that ends up being good. Or there's a team that, you know, we expect to be good that is good, like the Lions. They could disrupt all of this.

- Definitely.

- Buy we'll see. But--

- Still got the Cowboys, who we know are super talented too.

- Yeah, but you can just count on the Cowboys to create some--

- You think think this will be the--

- --expectations and hope and--

- --take a deep breath and relax and--

- No, I just think this is the Mike McCarthy Waterloo year, I think. It's all set up for it all to be his fault when it goes sideways. I mean, it is. I mean, Kellen Moore is out.

He's running the offense. I just feel like they're getting ready. Shireen Williams, who's covered that team for years, believes that Dan Quinn's going to be the next head coach, and it's just a matter of time. So we'll see. Maybe it's by next year.