Vikings trade Pro Bowl LB Za’Darius Smith to Browns after he requests release

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After two months of uncertainty, Za’Darius Smith and the Minnesota Vikings have come up with a divorce.

The Pro Bowl linebacker was traded to the Cleveland Browns on Friday in exchange for a trade of draft picks, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The Vikings will reportedly receive a fifth round pick in the 2024 and 2025 NFL Draft, while the Browns will receive a 2025 sixth and seventh round pick alongside Smith.

Smith has also reportedly agreed to a reworked contract that will pay him $11.75 million this season and make him a free agent next season. Smith previously entered the second year of the three-year, $42 million contract he signed with the Vikings in the off-season.

The deal resolves an awkward situation in which Smith reportedly requested that the Vikings release him and even said goodbye to Vikings fans in March, only to be told the team had no interest in letting him go.

Instead of a release, Smith now heads to Cleveland, where he forms one of the NFL’s top pass-rush duos alongside All-Pro Myles Garrett. The 30-year-old Smith posted 44 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and five passes defensed in his lone season in Minnesota.

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za'Darius Smith greets fans before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, October 16, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla.  (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Za’Darius Smith got his wish. Kind of. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The trade will also return Smith to the AFC North, the division where he played the first four seasons of his career with the Baltimore Ravens, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

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