49ers have to grab on this possible Vikings salary-cap casualty

Za'Darius Smith #55 of the Minnesota Vikings (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Za'Darius Smith #55 of the Minnesota Vikings (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Vikings need to trim payroll, and there’s one potential cap casualty the 49ers should absolutely be interested in if he becomes available.

The Minnesota Vikings were one of the NFL’s bigger shockers in 2022.

Granted, they won a few games they had very little business winning, and their 13-4 NFC North-winning record was overshadowed by a premature Wild Card loss to the New York Giants. Some may say Minnesota was nowhere near as good as the team it was played out to be.

Either way, the Vikings are going to look notably different in 2023 in contrast to last year.

Minnesota already bid farewell to longtime wide receiver Adam Theilen, and cornerback Cameron Dantzler is already on his way out, too.

But those aren’t the former Vikings players the San Francisco 49ers should be interested in.

No, they need to have their ears up for a pass-rusher potentially on the market.

49ers must sign Za’Darius Smith if Vikings grant his release

Minnesota is currently $7.436 million over the salary cap, according to Over the Cap, and moves like cutting Thielen help the team get its top 51 contracts under the $224.8 million salary cap by the start of the league new year.

There’s still some work to be done, though.

One player who wants to make it easy is EDGE Za’Darius Smith, the 30-year-old pass-rusher who spent a recent portion of his career with the Vikings’ chief rivals, the Green Bay Packers, before jumping ship to Minnesota last season.

It was a successful one, too, as Smith earned his third Pro Bowl nod on the coattails of a 10-sack season.

He wants out now, though, but NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Vikings aren’t planning on honoring Smith’s request:

What if they do?

49ers need a No. 2 pass-rusher to pair with Nick Bosa

Unlike the Vikings, the Niners are under the salary cap with NFL free agency around the corner.

Granted, $6.655 million in space won’t be enough to offer Smith in 2023, as even low-level pass-rushers can command that kind of money. But, with some modest roster jockeying, San Francisco could free up enough space to lure Smith in.

It’d be the perfect situation, too, as he’d join a team ready to win a Super Bowl now but without the pressure of having to be “the guy” on defense.

No, that player is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, EDGE Nick Bosa, whose 19.5 sacks led the league in 2022.

However, Bosa mostly did it alone on the 49ers defense, as no other player had more than five sacks last year.

Read More: Predicting which free agents 49ers re-sign, let walk in 2023

Adding Smith would change that drastically unless the Niners are wholly confident in second-year pro Drake Jackson making a massive leap after being a healthy scratch late in 2022 and even into the playoffs.

That might be a stretch, and Smith is far more proven a commodity than Jackson will be anytime soon.

Granted, Smith won’t come cheap, and San Francisco would likely have to bow out of any significant bidding war.

But, before that happens, the Vikings would have to act. The 49ers can hope they do soon enough.

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