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Browns agree to trade for pass rusher Za’Darius Smith

BEREA — The Browns got another pass rusher for new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

He’s a big name with a strong resume.

The Browns agreed to a trade Friday night for Pro Bowl pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram. He joins All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett.

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The Browns get Smith and sixth- and seventh-round draft picks in 2025. The Vikings get fifth-round picks in 2024 and 2025.

A key to the deal was the Browns negotiating a reworked contract for Smith, a three-time Pro Bowler. He’ll receive $11.75 million in 2023 and then become a free agent, NFL Network reported. The Vikings were looking to create salary cap space.

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Smith, 30, signed a three-year, $42 million contract with the Vikings last March, but it included just $6.45 million fully guaranteed. He was coming off a 2021 season in which he played only one game with the Packers due to a bulging disk in his back, but had 10 sacks in 16 games for Minnesota last season. He added 44 tackles, 15 for loss, 24 quarterback hits, five passes defensed and a forced fumble.

Smith (6-foot-4, 272 pounds) tweeted goodbye to Minnesota in March, but the Vikings weren’t ready or willing to release him.

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“We are in ongoing communication with (Za’Darius) and his representatives,” Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah told reporters last month. “We try to be solutions-oriented here. That’s what we’ll always talk about, and sometimes solutions come from different places or whatever. He’s a great member of our team last year and we’ll keep the conversation ongoing.”

Adofo-Mensah came from the Browns and is good friends with Cleveland GM Andrew Berry.

This is likely the last big move of a busy offseason for Berry. Despite signing Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to a three-year, $19 million deal as a free agent and drafting Missouri’s Isaiah McGuire in the fourth round, the Browns wanted more experience and pass rush ability at end to support Garrett, who had a franchise-record 16 sacks in each of the last two seasons.

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Smith has 54.5 sacks in eight seasons, including four with at least 8.5. He’s played 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker and made the Pro Bowl in 2019, ’20 and ’22 and was second-team All-Pro in 2020. He’ll be an end in Schwartz’s 4-3 scheme.

“Let’s eat @zadariussmith,” Okoronkwo tweeted.

Smith began his career in 2015 as a fourth-round pick of the Ravens. He was mostly a part-time player, then signed with the Packers in 2019. He started all 32 games and totaled 26 sacks in his first two seasons in Green Bay.

He’ll be part of a rebuilt defensive line that will be a focus of Schwartz’s attacking system. Not only did Berry add the ends, at tackle he signed Dalvin Tomlinson to a four-year, $57 million contract in March, drafted Siaki Ika in the third round and signed veterans Maurice Hurst II and Trysten Hill.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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