Za’Darius Smith is saving the green and gold and is looking for the purple. Perhaps the Vikings owe the Twins and Wild a little thanks for bringing in the elite pass-rusher.
Smith visited the Vikings on Monday. We all became aware of this when Smith posted a photo of himself at Vikings headquarters on social media. That means he was around to hear the buzz that has swept through the Twin Cities lately.
It was on Monday that Wild completed a trade for three-time Stanley Cup champion and reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. And that came three days after the Twins reached a deal with World Series champion and two-time All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa.
Smith had to smell what’s cooking in the Twin Cities and must have decided, “I’ll have what they’re eating.”
On Tuesday, Smith agreed to a three-year deal worth up to $47 million to line up opposite Danielle Hunter in the Vikings’ new 3-4 defensive scheme. He excelled in that role with the Packers until last season, when a back injury and surgery limited him to just 18 snaps.
In 2019, the two pass-rushing experts sat down to talk during the Pro Bowl. Hunter signed a jersey and presented it to Smith.
“You never know,” Hunter told him at the time. “Congratulations on your success and I hope that one day we will be on the same team.”
Smith remembered that Tuesday, then smiled and said, “And that day has come.”
At 29, Smith should have plenty of sacks left. He had 12.5 sacks in 2020, his last healthy season. He and Hunter will form one of the best passing tandems in the league.
“A lot of quarterbacks are going to have to fear us,” Smith said.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, aware that Smith once sacked Kirk Cousins 3.5 times and gave him five quarterback hits in a 2019 game, may soon request a trade or more offensive tackles for his own perseverance.
Smith was a one-man applause section Tuesday, nodding as Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah went over career highlights. He applauded himself as he took the podium after a presentation by head coach Kevin O’Connell. He then took his place alongside Fleury and Correa as the latest impact player to join the local sports scene.
In five days, the Twin Cities pro teams became a five-star destination.
“Show-rrea” is in fashion. “Flower” is in fashion. the scene now has postseason potential across the board. The stars have stopped flying over Minnesota for larger markets on one of the coasts. They are setting up right here.
The Vikings will have a good offense led by Cousins and have addressed the pass rush. But they need a cornerback just like the Twins need a No. 1 starter. But if the Vikings move forward defensively, they will be looking for a playoff spot in 2022.
The Wild has built his roster with size, shooters and a strong pair of goalkeepers. Now coach Dean Evason has to make it all click in the push for playoff positioning.
If the Twins can find a way to bring in Sean Manaea or Frankie Montas from Oakland, they could return to the playoffs, especially since six teams per league now enter.
The Wolves’ best addition has been the hiring of Chris Finch as head coach. They enter the final stretch of the regular season with a real chance of avoiding a play-in game and heading straight for the playoffs.
The Wolves, Wild, Twins and Vikings have never played a playoff game in the same year. But a few more additions to the boffo list, and there could be a race to be the first to schedule a championship parade.
Minnesota? Winnesota. Prepare to close schools and plot parade routes.