Vikings unload big money, Browns go all-in

The Za’Darius Smith trade benefits both the Vikings, who needed cap relief, and Browns, who needed help on defense. One team came out ahead even so.

With June 1 coming up quick, the Vikings have been trying to figure out how to get their cap under control while still getting something in return for tradeable assets like running back Dalvin Cook and and edge Za’Darius Smith.

While Cook may still be heading for a June 1 cut, the Smith question has been answered.

On Friday, the Vikings and Browns agreed to a trade sending Smith to Cleveland for draft picks.

Minnesota picked up two fifth rounders for next two years in the NFL Draft while Cleveland got Smith and a pair of 2025 picks.

Who won the trade?

Za’Darius Smith trade details: Vikings add picks, Browns add veteran

Vikings Get

2024 5th-round pick

2025 5th-round pick

Browns Get

Za’Darius Smith

2025 6th-round pick

2025 7th-round pick

Za’Darius Smith trade grade: Vikings get a B

We’ll start with Minnesota, the team with less leverage to work with considering their cap space situation.

The alternative to trading Smith was cutting him to save cap space. With this deal, they managed to get something in return while adding somewhere in the $12-13 million range in cap room.

That’s a pretty penny to save while getting a couple of mid-round draft picks for their trouble.

Is that “haul” worthy of an edge rusher who had 10 sacks and made the Pro Bow last year? Definitely not, but in terms of the Vikings’ needs, this did the trick. And hey, sending him to the Browns is better than risking him landing with an NFC rival in free agency…again.

They don’t get a higher grade because this amounts to a salary dump and they let the other team essentially “win” the trade.

Za’Darius Smith trade grade: Browns get an A

Yeah, this is easy. The Browns won the trade because they got a productive veteran coming off a Pro Bowl season who will upgrade their pass rush opposite Myles Garrett and they gave up next-to-nothing.

Cleveland won’t notice those 2024 fifth rounders if Smith puts up double-digit sack numbers again this year, especially since his presence will only benefit Garrett.

The Browns paid Jadaveon Clowney nearly $10 million last year to log two sacks in 12 games played. They’re going to pay Smith $11.75 million with a reworked contract, according to Tom Pelissero, so it’s not like they’re breaking the bank to add a player with five times the production.

Of course, Cleveland winning the trade is dependent on Smith living up to expectations, and just maybe the Vikings not hitting absolute gold in the fifth round in 2024 and 2025.

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