When the Minnesota Vikings fired Rick Spielman and brought in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, there were questions about how the Vikings would attack the upcoming season. Rebuild and prepare for the future, or double down and commit to winning now? Those questions were quickly answered back in March when the Vikings went out and signed ex-Packer Za’Darius Smith. It was time to win now.
Za’Darius Smith agreed to terms with the Minnesota Vikings, per source.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 22, 2022
3 year deal
Base value of 42 million
Worth up to 47 million with incentives
14 million APY
There was some skepticism, though, with this signing, and rightfully so. Smith was coming off a season in which he only played one game and was plagued by injuries the rest of the way. The potential with Smith was there, but questions about whether he could stay healthy alongside Danielle Hunter—who had missed 26 games over the last two seasons—were brought up frequently.
The optimism, though, far outweighed the skepticism, and most fans were thrilled with the addition and the thought of having two star defensive ends play next to each other, including Za’Darius Smith himself.
“Meet at the Quarterback”— Za'Darius Smith (@zadariussmith) March 21, 2022
The move to sign Smith was a win now move, and that’s exactly what the Vikings have been doing. As of today, they are 5-1 and in first place in the NFC North, and Smith has been a large part of that.
Za'Darius Smith recorded 11 (!) total pressures against the Dolphins, second-most of any player in a single game this year.— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) October 17, 2022
Smith now has 29 total pressures on the season, second-most of any defender in the NFL.
You can look all over the All-22 film throughout the season and see Za’Darius Smith’s impact. He has made an impact in every phase of the game. He makes a great play in the run game, shedding his block and mauling Lions RB Jamaal Williams in the backfield for a great tackle for loss.
Za'Darius Smith (55) with a nice TFL but also a good one for my favorite Vikings Dalvin Tomlinson (94) and Harrison Philips (97) discouraging vertical cut lanes pic.twitter.com/uC2jXwQSgm— Shawn (@syedschemes) September 26, 2022
Smith has also made his presence felt when rushing the passer. Smith has generated the 2nd most pressures (29) in the NFL through 6 weeks. His speed, power, and relentlessness are shown here as he rushes past Greg Little and forces Teddy Bridgewater to throw an incomplete pass. These types of plays are showing up every week.
Za'Darius Smith cooked Greg Little, over and over and over again. pic.twitter.com/0YdJmOhShx— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) October 17, 2022
Lastly, Smith has made his presence felt in the locker room. From the second he arrived and tweeted out, “Meet at the quarterback,” he was an instant favorite. After the Dolphins’ game, though, you can see the type of leadership he displays and how guys like Hunter and Jones are motivated by that. After a dominant performance, he doesn’t take credit for himself but instead calls out his counter parts’ and their strong performances, referring to all of them as “BMF’s” (Bad Mother ______’s).
This was the situation in the Vikings postgame locker room. L-R: Patrick Jones, Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter. They combined for 5 sacks. “BMFs,” as Smith says in the video I had to edit for reasons you’ll see. pic.twitter.com/0RjQa8VISC— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) October 16, 2022
When the Vikings signed Smith, they knew he’d be an important part of their defense, but through the first six games, he’s been nothing short of fantastic. The bye week comes at a perfect time and he’ll get to rest up to really hit the ground running for the remainder of the season. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the Vikings hit a home run with Za’Darius Smith and should be thrilled. The question now is whether Smith can maintain his dominance, because if he does, the Vikings may have hit a grand slam rather than a homerun.