Jake TrotterESPN staff writer3 minutes to read
Berea, Ohio – The The Cleveland Browns bolstered their defense on Friday, agreeing to a trade with the Minnesota Vikings for three-time Zadarius Smith, a source confirmed to ESPN.
Minnesota will receive a pair of fifth-round picks (2024 and 2025) in the deal, the source said. In addition to Smith, Cleveland has the 2025 sixth round and 2025 seventh overall honors.
Smith, 30, will team with All-Pro Myles Garrett to give Cleveland one of the NFL’s most accomplished pass duos. Smith is one of five players with more than 10 sacks in three of the past four seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research; Jarrett is one of the others.
Smith had 10 sacks with the Vikings in 2022. In 2019 and 2020, Smith combined for 26 sacks in back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons for the Green Bay Packers. He still has over $11 in guaranteed salary left in his deal.
On March 9, Smith tweeted what appeared to be a farewell message to the Vikings, thanking the organization for a “great season and great experience”. But sources said at the time that Smith was under contract with the team and had no plans to release him, suggesting possible trade discussions.
The prospect of the trade intensified when the Vikings reached an agreement with Marcus Davenport on the first day of the NFL’s free agent negotiation period.
Smith signed a free, three-year, $42 million contract with the Vikings this past spring amid reports that he first agreed to terms with the Baltimore Ravens after his release from the Packers. The Vikings wanted him as an outside linebacker to partner with veteran Daniel Hunter in the 3-4 plan favored by new head coach Kevin O’Connell.
Smith enjoyed a strong start to the season, producing 8.5 sacks in the first seven weeks, but a chronic knee injury slowed him down and he managed just 1.5 sacks for the remainder of the regular season.
The Browns have already made several additions to their defense this offseason. Earlier in free agency, they signed veteran defensive end Dalphin Tomlinson, safeties Juan Thornhill and Ogbonia Okoronkwo, who would round out Cleveland’s rotation at defensive end alongside Jarrett and Smith.
NFL Network first announced the trade agreement.
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.
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