Inside the Za’Darius Smith deal

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Linebacker Za'Darius Smith had agreed to a four-year, $35 million deal with the Ravens, until he didn’t. But he released the bird in the hand with nothing else in the hopper.

Eventually, Smith signed with the Vikings. It’s a three-year, $42 million deal. On paper. The details, as they often do, paint a different picture.

Here they are, per a source with knowledge of the terms:

1. Signing bonus: $5 million.

2. 2022 base salary: $1.45 million, fully guaranteed.

3. 2022 per-game roster bonus: $3 million ($176,470 per game).

4. 2023 base salary: $9.45 million, $5.05 million of which becomes fully guaranteed in 2023.

5. 2023 per-game roster bonus: $3 million ($176,470 per game).

6. 2024 90-man roster bonus: $2.5 million.

7. 2024 base salary: $14.45 million.

8. 2024 per-game roster bonus: $3 million ($176,470 per game).

9. 2022-24 workout bonus: $50,000.

The deal also includes incentives for 2022 and 2023. The 2022 package in each season consists of $500,000 for 8.5 sacks or $750,000 for 10.5 sacks or $1 million for 12.5 sacks. In 2023, it’s $1.5 million for 8.5 sacks or $3 million for 10.5 sacks or $4 million for 12.5 sacks.

It’s really a one-year, $9.5 million contract, nearly a third of which is tied to Smith being able to play in every game. At the very best, it’s a two-year, $22 million deal.

The per-game roster bonuses are mammoth, and for good reason. A back injury limited Smith to only 18 snaps in 2021. The Vikings are protecting themselves against Smith potentially missing time.

The final season, at $20 million, is fluff and puff, aimed at making the deal he signed in Minnesota look better than the one he didn’t take in Baltimore.

37 responses to “Inside the Za’Darius Smith deal

  1. But, does anyone know the real story of what the Ravens were actually offering? Perhaps the guaranteed money was even less. My instincts always lead me to believe players take the contract that gives them the greatest benefit.

  2. He also asked for more after agreeing to the original deal with the Ravens. Ravens wouldn’t be jerked around in spite of the positional need. Good for them.

  3. The free agency money dried up and Smith realized he got greedy and blew it. Without a big market for his services because of his back surgery, Smith realized that the Minnesota deal is probably the Best deal he can get now. Smith has no leverage. It sure looks like a one year deal. Maybe he thinks he can perform at a high level and hit all the incentives. Minnesota was smart to capitalize on such opportunity. It’s a low risk high reward type of transaction.

  4. A steal for the Vikings. He needs to be healthy and play well to get paid. Like it should be.

  5. Thanks for the clarification – liking the new regime more and more, now oline and cb please…PP back on a multiyear deal where he can move to safety. Top tier guard or center signing…draft CB, DE, LB, G, WR, QB – Please trade back from 12!

  6. Totally wish Z well, except when he is playing the Packers. Hope he not on the cusp of a bonus ratchet up on the last day of the season if he heads into Green Bay! Would be shame when he misses it!


  7. Now I REALLY love this deal. Nice move by the new regime. Lots of upside and almost zero downside. I hope he earns every penny of the deal!

  8. If this is the best Z could do maybe there really are a ton of edge rushers in the draft. Or maybe his back no bueno.

  9. Personally, I think he’s got a bone to pick with Green Bay. He wants a chance to smack Aaron a few times for taking so much money that they can’t afford players like him.

  10. So what happens if a player hits incentives that results in team exceeding cap? Do they have to build in buffer for incentives against the cap each year?

  11. What we don’t know is how much fluff and puff was in that offer from the Ravens. I’m guessing quite a bit, so this contract is still probably comparable. The Vikings did a good job of protecting themselves.

    Does anyone know how the per-game roster bonuses work for figuring the salary cap hit? Seems like you don’t know if they’ll be achieved until they are so is the 2022 cap hit just the salary + the prorated signing bonus ($3.117 million)? Or is it assumed they will be achieved so the whole amount is included in the immediate cap hit ($6.117 million)? Or something in between? That makes a big difference when you’re trying to find every nickel of space you can.

  12. What it boiled down to was the first class treatment he received from a world class organization that welcomed him with open arms and made him feel like family. Players are starting to take notice

  13. You heard it here first: Zadarius wrecks the Packers as your Skol Vikes go 8-0 against the division this year.

  14. And this is why MN has the best capoligist in the NFL in MR. Rob Brezinsky. The Hutchinson poison pill will never be topped.

  15. So he’s betting on himself. And the Vikings have easy outs. Good contract for the team.

  16. He wont make he whole season,he will be lucky to make six games before his back once again gives out.every person who has had back the misfortune of having a back injury knows it never goes away,you just live with it and hope the pain stays away.Vikings spent lots of money on wounded warrior.

  17. “Personally, I think he’s got a bone to pick with Green Bay. He wants a chance to smack Aaron a few times for taking so much money that they can’t afford players like him”
    The Packers cut Z for the same reason the Vikings will cut him after 2 years… too big of a salary cap hit. No team in NFL would have kept Z for the 22.7 million dollar cap hit he would have cost in 2022. His value is more in line with what he got from the Vikings, especially coming off a back injury. Plus, what everyone seems to be ignoring is that Pettine and Smith were his coaches during his first year in Green bay and Z credits them a lot for his breakout. He’s going back to play for 2 coaches her really likes.

  18. He saw the funny money Chandler Jones and Von Miller got, and renegged on the Ravens deal which was likely better.

    A lot of guys were getting bad information on their market.

  19. Gives the Vikes flexibility if Z doesn’t stay healthy. I’m surprised the Pack didn’t sign him to those terms instead of focusing upon the other Smith.

  20. Regularly missing the playoffs? . . . interesting interpretation of “penthouse” and “World Class”

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