Immediately after the draft, Browns GM Andrew Berry made it clear:
“We still have work to do on our roster. Well explore every opportunity, trade, veteran market to continue to add depth and competition to all spots.”
So to back that up, the Browns acquired DE Za’Darius Smith from Minnesota as reported by Tom Pelissero and Ian Rappaport. The club also gave the Vikings two fifth round draft picks, one in ‘24 and ‘25. In addition to Smith, the Browns will receive a 6th and 7th round pick in the 2025 draft.
The full trade, per league source:#Browns get:
2025 6th-round pick
2025 7th-roundpick#Vikings get:
2024 5th-round pick
2025 5th-round pick https://t.co/outlkV71ME
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 12, 2023
Mary Kay Cabot from Cleveland.com is reporting the Vikings are eating some of this year’s contract, too.
Za’Darius Smith: Contract and player
Smith and his agent, Erik Burkhardt, reworked his contract so he can be a free agent next year. He will earn $11.75 million this year and immediately hit the free agent market after the 2023 season.
In Smith, the Browns are getting a three-time Pro Bowler and disruptive force when healthy. Smith is clearly one of the most successful sack men the past few years. Since 2019 he has garnered 36.0 sacks. Impressive when you think he was also out most of 2021 for back surgery.
Za'Darius Smith – YOU ARE A CLEVELAND BROWN !! pic.twitter.com/FhJVZFwOCm
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) May 12, 2023
History of Za’Darius Smith in the NFL
The 30 year old Smith was a fourth round pick in the 2015 NFL draft of Ozzie Newsome as GM of the Ravens. Coming out of East Mississippi CC and finally the University of Kentucky, the Alabama native saw time with the Ravens as defensive end and outside linebacker.
2018 was a breakout year for Smith as he started eight games at OLB and tallied 8.5 sacks. Then after the season he signed with Green Bay and had a Pro Bowl year. With 13.5 sacks, 55 combined tackles, and 37 quarterback hits, he helped the Packers to the NFC title game before losing to the 49ers.
After another solid year in 2020, Smith was injured after playing one game in 2021 and missed the entire regular season. He returned for the only playoff game for the Packers that year.
He was released by Green Bay and he signed with Minnesota. Again as Mary Kay reported, Smith was not happy with his release. In an interview with Tyler Dunne of Go Long, Mary Kay shared what Smith said:
“Walking past me not saying nothing. ‘Z, how’s your back doing?’—there was none of that…As you can see, that adds on to why I’m on the other side. So I can go back. I get to go back two times a year. … I put my back on the f–ing line. I put everything. And that Year 3, I was treated bad. That’s why I’m here now. So I can play them twice a year.”
He spent an injury-plagued year with the Vikings who wanted to get younger and less expensive. And he joins his former Viking defender in Dalvin Tomlinson as a Cleveland Brown.
What the Browns get
Let’s eat @zadariussmith 🍽️
— Ogbo Okoronkwo (@OgboOkoronkwo) May 12, 2023
Now DC Jim Schwartz has a stable of linemen that can pressure the QB. If healthy, Smith could give the Browns versatility as edge rusher or ROLB. Schwartz loves to keep offenses guessing. Now he has three men who can rush the passer from different sides in Garrett, Smith and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo.
They get a player who has seen and tasted the playoffs each of the last five years. I’m sure he and his agent didn’t sign here if they didn’t think they could help this team get to the promised land. And if he stays healthy and Cleveland makes waves in the postseason, look out for that last, big contract!
They also get a player who has grumbled with his last two employers. But that’s nothing new to this club and Berry who love to take flyers on players with questionable pasts. But even the Browns GM said in his press conference after the draft that the club has not done a good job of managing turmoil in the locker room the past few years.
Maybe they have figured out an analytical formula for chemistry? Doubt it. But there is no doubting that with the Smith signing the Browns have made overhauling the defense priority number one.
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