The Minnesota Vikings and Za'Darius Smith appear to be at an impasse. The veteran linebacker has informed the team of his desire to be released, according to NFL Media. However, this report adds that Minnesota has no plans to acquiesce to Smith's request and the situation remains unresolved.
Despite the Vikings' reported disinterest and unwillingness to release him, Smith did post what appeared to be a farewell to the franchise on social media on Thursday afternoon.
I just want to say “Thank you!” to Skol Nation for an amazing season & experience! Thank you to all of my Teammates, Coaches & the entire Minnesota Vikings Organization! 💜 pic.twitter.com/LAVAy5jptS— Za'Darius Smith (@zadariussmith) March 9, 2023
Smith is coming off a strong bounce-back season in 2022 after inking a three-year, $42 million deal with Minnesota last offseason. After dealing with a back injury that limited him to just one game for the Packers in 2021, Smith put together a Pro Bowl season and started all 16 of his games played for the Vikings. When on the field, the 30-year-old piled up 10 sacks and a team-high 24 quarterback hits to go along with five pass breakups and 44 total tackles.
Given how impactful Smith was for them last season, it's not surprising to see the Vikings reluctant to let him walk even though his release would clear roughly $12.1 million off of the team's salary cap this offseason. Minnesota would carry just a $3.3 million dead cap charge for Smith in 2023 and then $1.6 million in 2024. As things stand as of Thursday evening, the Vikings are just around $15 million over the salary cap, so releasing Smith would offer some relief in that regard, albeit creating a hole at the edge rusher position.
Because the edge rusher free agent class isn't particularly strong and Smith enjoyed a double-digit sack season, that could be the genesis of his desire to be released as he'd again hit the open market and possibly gain a substantial payday.
Smith entered the league as a fourth-round draft choice of the Ravens in 2015 out of Kentucky. He spent his first four years in the league with Baltimore before signing a massive four-year, $66 million deal with Green Bay in 2019. With the Packers, Smith enjoyed two Pro Bowl-caliber seasons and was named second-team All-Pro in 2020 after totaling 12.5 sacks.