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Inside the Za’Darius Smith deal

Mike Florio and Chris Simms break down the Minnesota Vikings signing Za'Darius Smith and explain why it's a high-risk move for the franchise given Smith's injury history.

Linebacker Za’Darius Smith had agreed to a four-year, $35 million deal with the Ravens, until he didn’t. But he released the bird in the hand with nothing else in the hopper.

Eventually, Smith signed with the Vikings. It’s a three-year, $42 million deal. On paper. The details, as they often do, paint a different picture.

Here they are, per a source with knowledge of the terms:

1. Signing bonus: $5 million.

2. 2022 base salary: $1.45 million, fully guaranteed.

3. 2022 per-game roster bonus: $3 million ($176,470 per game).

4. 2023 base salary: $9.45 million, $5.05 million of which becomes fully guaranteed in 2023.

5. 2023 per-game roster bonus: $3 million ($176,470 per game).

6. 2024 90-man roster bonus: $2.5 million.

7. 2024 base salary: $14.45 million.

8. 2024 per-game roster bonus: $3 million ($176,470 per game).

9. 2022-24 workout bonus: $50,000.

The deal also includes incentives for 2022 and 2023. The 2022 package in each season consists of $500,000 for 8.5 sacks or $750,000 for 10.5 sacks or $1 million for 12.5 sacks. In 2023, it’s $1.5 million for 8.5 sacks or $3 million for 10.5 sacks or $4 million for 12.5 sacks.

It’s really a one-year, $9.5 million contract, nearly a third of which is tied to Smith being able to play in every game. At the very best, it’s a two-year, $22 million deal.

The per-game roster bonuses are mammoth, and for good reason. A back injury limited Smith to only 18 snaps in 2021. The Vikings are protecting themselves against Smith potentially missing time.

The final season, at $20 million, is fluff and puff, aimed at making the deal he signed in Minnesota look better than the one he didn’t take in Baltimore.