Source – Browns trade of Vikings pass-rusher Zatarius Smith

Jack TrotterESPN staff writerMay 12, 2023, 08:06 PM ET3 minutes of reading

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BEREA, Ohio — The The Cleveland Browns bolstered their defense on Friday, agreeing to a trade with the Minnesota Vikings for three-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher Zatarius Smith, it was confirmed to ESPN.

Minnesota will receive a pair of fifth-round picks (2024 and 2025) in the deal, the source said. In addition to Smith, Cleveland returns a 2025 sixth-round pick and a 2025 seventh-rounder.

Smith, 30, will team up with All-Pro Myles Garrett to give Cleveland one of the most efficient pass-rushing duos in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information Research, Smith is one of five players with 10-plus sacks in three of the past four seasons; Garrett was one of the others.

Smith had 10 sacks with the Vikings in 2022. In 2019 and 2020, Smith combined for 26 sacks in consecutive Pro Bowl seasons for the Green Bay Packers. His contract still has more than $11 in guaranteed salary.

On March 9, Smith tweeted what appeared to be a farewell message to the Vikings, thanking the organization for “an amazing season and experience.” But sources at the time said Smith was under contract and the team had no plans to release him, suggesting the possibility of trade discussions.

The prospect of a trade intensified when the Vikings reached an agreement with pass-rusher Marcus Davenport on the first day of the NFL’s free agent negotiating period.

Smith signed a three-year, $42 million free agent contract with the Vikings last spring. The Vikings wanted him as an outside linebacker to pair with veteran Daniel Hunter in a 3-4 scheme favored by new coach Kevin O’Connell.

Smith enjoyed a strong start to the season, producing 8.5 sacks through the first seven weeks, but a chronic knee injury slowed him down and he managed just 1.5 sacks the rest of the regular season.

The Browns have already made several additions to their defense this offseason. Earlier in free agency, they signed veteran defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson, safety Juan Thornhill and Ogbonia Okoronkwo, who will join Garrett and Smith to round out Cleveland’s rotation at defensive end.

NFL Network first announced the trade deal.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.

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