Za’Darius Smith Sends Warning to Packers After Signing With Vikings


    Za’Darius Smith #55 of the Green Bay Packers before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park on November 03, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    The Green Bay Packers defense spent three seasons harassing quarterbacks with the help of Za’Darius Smith. Now it’s their own signal caller they have to worry about.

    Smith signed a three-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday, March 22 worth $42 million. He stepped to the microphone later that afternoon during his introductory press conference with a message for every NFC North team and their QBs, including the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.

    “I talked to Danielle Hunter yesterday that I was going to be coming here and signing and he was like, ‘Okay, now we can be one of the best duos in the league,’” Smith said. “A lot of quarterbacks, they’re going to have to fear us.”

    “Our main focus is to win the [NFC] North,” Smith continued. “To get in and help my teammates complete that, I’m all here for it.”

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    Vikings Boast Formidable Pass Rush With Smith, Hunter

    Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

    GettyDanielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates in the second half against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Hunter is not wrong about the potential of the Vikings’ pass rush duo to be among the best in the NFL, and Smith isn’t wrong about that reality striking fear into the hearts of opponents.

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    Both players are two-time Pro Bowl selections — Hunter in 2018 and 2019, and Smith in 2019 and 2020. The year they shared Pro Bowl honors, Smith and Hunter led the NFL in QB pressures with 93 and 88, respectively, per Pro Football Focus.

    Smith has tallied 44.5 sacks and 112 QB hits over the course of his seven-year NFL career, while Hunter has amassed 60.5 sacks and 90 QB hits over his six years in the NFL.

    Two Obstacles Could Hinder Vikings’ Edge Rush Duo of Smith, Hunter

    Za'Darius Smith

    GettyOutside linebacker Za’Darius Smith #55, formerly of the Green Bay Packers.

    Despite the consistent production of both Smith and Hunter, there exist two potential barriers to the Vikings’ edge rushers wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. The first involves whether both players can stay healthy.

    Smith missed nearly all of last year with a back injury that required surgery, playing in just the first game of the regular season against the New Orleans Saints and in Green Bay’s one playoff outing against the San Francisco 49ers. Hunter missed the entirety of the 2020 campaign with a neck issue before playing just seven games last season due to a torn pectoral.

    The second obstacle is whether the Vikings choose to retain Hunter at all. Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Wednesday, March 16 that the team was actively looking to trade its edge rusher before being forced to pay him an $18 million roster bonus. Minnesota was unable to get a deal done before the Saturday deadline, though the Vikings did restructure payment into four signing bonuses of $4.5 million each spread out over the next four years, two of which are voidable. The restructure helped clear the way for Smith’s signing Tuesday.

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    The benefits of two top-flight pass rushers on the field at once may have changed Minnesota’s mind about dealing Hunter, especially with Rodgers to deal with twice each season. On the other hand, the Vikings still need upgrades at cornerback and along the offensive line.

    Multiple teams reached out to Minnesota last week to inquire about a trade for Hunter, including the Cleveland Browns, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Some of that interest in Hunter likely remains just days later, should the Vikings decide again to explore it.

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