Harrison Smith Unlikely to Retire; Return to Vikings No Guarantee Though

Harrison Smith Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are coming very close to decision time on their offseason. March 12 is the final day Kirk Cousins can agree to an extension in Minnesota before his looming $28.5 million dead cap hits the books and he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Thus, the clock is ticking.

This isn’t a Cousins article but it is important when discussing the future of other veteran cornerstones of the franchise like Harrison Smith, among others. According to a report by Darren Wolfson on SKOR North, it sounds like Smith has decided against any thoughts he had about retiring and plans to return to NFL football in the fall.

“At this point, I’ll be surprised [if Harrison Smith retires]. So, let’s go on the idea that he’s playing a 13th season. Well, we know it can’t be at his current number. Cap hit of nearly $20 million, base salary of $14 million and change…. for him to play for the Vikings in 2024, we know he’ll have to take another pay cut. He took a pretty decent paycut a year ago. To me, he’d have to take an even bigger paycut so we will see how that remains to be seen how that plays out. I’m just saying, I’d be pretty darn surprised if he just walks away.”

Darren Wolfson – Mackey & Judd (SKOR North)

Will Harrison Smith return to Minnesota Vikings in 2024?

But Doogie isn’t nearly as convinced about where the Hitman will land or what uniform he will wear next season upon his return. Because, if he wants to return the the Vikings, it’s believed Smith — who is scheduled to count $20 million against the cap in 2024 — will have to take an even bigger paycut than the sizeable haircut he took last year.

Related: Mike Florio Reveals Julie and Kirk Cousins as His Sources; Triples Down on Recent Reporting

Will that force Harry out of town? No… at least not according to Wolfson, who says money isn’t what the Hitman is concerned about. Instead, it sounds like the 6x pro bowler will play for whatever dollar amount is necessary, as long as he is playing for a winning team. In other words, the only thing Harrison Smith cares about while deciding on the team he will play for next season is a legitimate chance at winning the Super Bowl.

Judd: “So let’s say the Vikings say, ‘OK [Harrison Smith], you can come back at our price.’ Do you think there is any chance he would say, ‘no, just cut me and I will leave here after 12 years?'”

Doogie: “Yeah, I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss that. Judd, I’m going back to that loss against the Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Being in that locker room postgame. I’ve never seen Harrison Smith so dejected. Yeah, he’s not one to be chasing the cash. But chasing a ring? Wanting to win at the highest level possible and, truly, is he going to do that here in 2024? So, I wouldn’t dismiss that.”

Yes, he does love it here. He loves playing for Brian Flores. Brian Flores loves him. But can he win at the level he wants to win at here in 2024. That, to me, is the question to ponder; not whether or not he is going to retire.

Mackey & Judd (SKOR North)

Is Smith’s return dependant on Kirk Cousins?

Harrison Smith Minnesota Vikings
Photo: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

And that’s where I come back to, yet again, Kirk Cousins. If the Minnesota Vikings end up moving on from Kirk, it isn’t guaranteed they’ll take a giant big step back during whatever restart process that would initiate, but you’re lying to yourself if you ignore how limited the team’s 2024 ceiling would be, even if their next QB plays well.

Realistically put yourself in Harrison Smith’s shoes and assume your number one priority is a Super Bowl. Should Cousins return, it’s still a pretty hard sell. But some good offseason decision-making, combined with a pep talk from his 7-year QB1 would probably give the Vikings a really good shot at convincing him to come back to finish his career where it started.

Related: Vikings Showing Interest in Chiefs Top Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed:

But if Kirk leaves, I cannot see a realistic future where Harrison Smith plays home games at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2024-25. He holds all the cards because the Vikings aren’t going to pay him what his contract says. There’s no doubt, however, that Harry is valued around the NFL.

It’s probable Smith could still get $10-15 million somewhere. If he is willing to sign cheap for a legitimate contender, he’d have a plethora of teams to choose from, all of which would immediately improve their defense for pretty much nothing.

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