Harrison Smith has been a staple of the Minnesota Vikings’ secondary since being drafted 29th overall in 2012. The former Notre Dame safety has consistently been one of the best in the league at his position and a foundational part of Mike Zimmer’s defense.
Despite being named to five Pro Bowls, first-team All-Pro twice, and second-team All-Pro once, he could be a candidate for trade this offseason — or even cut. Despite being one of the Vikings’ best defensive players in 2020, Smith, 32, is in the final year of his contract. Minnesota is $12.1 million over the cap, and Smith is on the books for $10 million — none of which is guaranteed.
Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballantine has already theorized that the Dallas Cowboys could make a play for Smith. While the Vikings are in a cap pinch, cutting or trading Smith shouldn’t even be considered.
Anthony Harris is probably gone, and losing Smith this offseason would be catastrophic given the relative inexperience of the cornerbacks on the roster.
Dealing Smith makes some sense if Harris continued his 2019 form, but Harris frequently got beat in coverage and failed to make tackles this year. Harris led the NFL in interceptions in 2019, but this season he failed to record a turnover and went from a 90.5 PFF grade on PFF to 66.2 last season.
Smith has quietly built a case for being a Hall of Famer in his nine-year career with the Vikings.
Smith’s $10 million cap hit may be too high, but the Vikings should go about lowering it differently. Since there’s no guaranteed money left in Smith’s current deal, they could try to renegotiate a lower cap hit with more guaranteed money. If that doesn’t work, they should offer him an extension at a lower cap hit with progressively less guaranteed money later in the contract.
Cutting or dealing away Smith would have major repercussions on the secondary and the defense as a whole, as he often plays closer to the line of scrimmage to snuff out running plays.
It will be interesting to see how the Vikings move forward with Smith going into next season, given their cap situation.[h/t Heavy]