Former Green Bay Packers linebacker Za'Darius Smith signs with rival Minnesota Vikings

Kassidy Hill
Packers News
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Outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith is moving on to Minnesota.

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers will be playing against Za'Darius Smith twice a year now that the free-agent outside linebacker has signed with NFC North rival Minnesota.

NFL Network reported that Smith agreed to a three-year, $42 million deal with the Vikings.

The veteran pass rusher was released by the Packers ahead of the new league year. He originally looked poised to return to the Baltimore Ravens, the club that originally drafted the Kentucky product in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL draft. But the deal fell through and Smith returned to the open market last week. 

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According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the terms are for three years, with a base value of $42 million, worth up to $47 million with incentives. Smith will make $14 million per year on average. 

Smith alluded to the signing Monday, tweeting the phrase, “Meet me at the quarterback.” It was a phrase made famous by the “Purple People Eaters,” the legendary Vikings defensive line unit from the 1960’s and '70’s. Now, at least twice a year, that quarterback will be Aaron Rodgers. 

Smith played in only two games for the Packers during the 2021 season: the season opener against the New Orleans Saints and the Packers' playoff matchup versus the San Francisco 49ers. A back injury suffered during training camp limited Smith’s playing time. 

During his three seasons (37 games) with the Packers, Smith accumulated 121 tackles, 30 sacks and five forced fumbles. He was named to the Pro Bowl twice (2019-20), earned second-team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press (2020) and was named to the All-NFC team by the Pro Football Writers of America (2020).

Facing a precarious salary-cap situation, the Packers elected to move forward without Smith.

“We want to thank Za’Darius for his contributions to the Packers over the past three seasons,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said in a statement after Smith's release. “He came in and made an immediate impact on this football team, helping the team win three straight division titles. We want to wish Za’Darius and his family all the best moving forward.”

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