Safety Harrison Smith to remain with Vikings after agreeing to pay cut
Minnesota also reached an agreement on a 1-year contract with reserve center Schlottman
When Byron Murphy was touring the TCO Performance Center on Thursday, he got the news that safety Harrison Smith would be returning to the Vikings. That excited him.
Murphy, a cornerback entering his fifth season, signed with Minnesota as a free agent. And now he knows he’ll be joined in the secondary by Smith, who agreed to take a pay cut from a $14.7 million base salary to $8 million and return for a 12th year with the Vikings.
“I saw that news, and I was like, ‘Man, that’s a great player,’’’ Murphy said in his introductory press conference. “And obviously watching him as well, knowing and hearing the type of leader he is on this team. That’s a big thing to have someone like that, and that good of a player to come in and lead the way, to be a vocal leader. I can’t wait to get on the field beside him.”
Smith, who had been on the books for a salary-cap number of $19.127, would have been released had he not agreed to restructure his contract. He did get $2 million of possible incentives in his one-year deal, so it could be worth as much as $10 million.
Smith has made six Pro Bowls with the Vikings, the last one in 2021. However, he had some slippage in 2022, when Minnesota was ranked No. 31 in the NFL in total defense, and he turned 34 last month.
“He didn’t play as good as he could,’’ said Vikings hall of fame safety Paul Krause. “I don’t know what the problem was or anything but I’m not there. I’m not there every day watching him. He’ll have to tie it on and have a better season.’’
Krause, who made six of his eight career Pro Bowls playing for the Vikings from 1968-79, has developed a close relationship with Smith and both safeties made their mark by wearing No. 22. He was thrilled to hear Smith would return to the team.
“That’s great,’’ he sad. “He’s a good ball player and they know what he can do and everything.’’
The Vikings entered free agency more than $24 million over the cap and needed to address the contracts of some high-priced players. Last week, they released linebacker Eric Kendricks and wide receiver Adam Thielen.
As required, the Vikings got under the salary cap by Wednesday’s first day of the new league year, but they still have work to do to trim salaries.
With the Vikings agreeing to re-sign backup running back Alexander Mattison to a two-year, $7 million deal, starting running back Dalvin Cook is in line to most likely be traded or released. Cook is on the books in 2023 for a base salary of $10.4 million, with $2 million becoming guaranteed Friday due to injury. He had shoulder surgery last month.
The Vikings also could release or trade edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, who is on the books for a base salary of $9.45 million and, barring any agreed-upon change to the language, would have $5.05 million of that guaranteed if he’s still with the team after Friday. He could end up being replaced by free-agent signee Marcus Davenport.
In addition to letting Kendricks go, the Vikings also lost veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, who signed with Pittsburgh. Krause said the losses have made it even more important for Minnesota to retain the seasoned Harrison Smith on the defense.
“That would be one way I would think about it,’’ Krause said. “You need somebody you can trust out there.’’
The Vikings on Thursday also agreed to re-sign reserve center Austin Schlottman to a one-year contract. And in addition to Murphy, they introduced tight end Josh Oliver after he signed as a free agent. Davenport was at the TCO Performance Center on Thursday but did not meet with the media due to needing to catch a flight home.
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