Browns contract with Za'Darius Smith is another huge win
By Randy Gurzi
The Minnesota Vikings were ready to move on from Za'Darius Smith and the Cleveland Browns were in need of another starting-caliber defensive end. That led to a move that will benefit both sides but the Browns have to feel as though they got the better end of the deal.
Not only did they land a player with 54.5 career sacks in exchange for a mere swapping of late-round picks, but they also found a way to make his contract very affordable while protecting themselves should injury become a concern.
According to Field Yates, Cleveland's cap hit for Smith is a mere $3.032 million with the Vikings only taking a $1.177 million hit on their cap.
The newly acquired defensive end can make nearly $13 million with incentives but it's unclear how that would impact this year's cap. Knowing the way Andrew Berry operates, it likely would be pushed into future years.
Browns protect themsleves against injury
Smith, who missed all but one game in 2021 with the Green Bay Packers returned to form early in his first season with the Vikings. Smith recorded 9.5 sacks in the first nine weeks of the season, including a three-sack outing against Arizona in Week 7.
However, from Week 10 through the remainder of the year, he had just a half-sack. Perhaps the back issue that plagued him in 2021 resurfaced or maybe he was just over-utilized.
In Cleveland, they've protected themselves in multiple ways here. One, Smith's contract is a minimal risk for them. Should he not suit up, the cap hit remains low. Two, they're not going to over-use him.
The Browns have plenty of depth now with pass-rushing specialist Ogbo Okoronkwo behind Smith and Myles Garrett. There's also second-year player Alex Wright and rookie Isaiah McGuire.
Clearly, there's a rotation in place and Smith isn't going to be asked to log the snaps he did early in his career. In the end, that will be a huge boost for him as well as the Browns defense as a whole.