4 Minnesota Vikings players with the most at stake in 2021

(Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr.
(Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr. /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports) Harrison Smith /

Harrison Smith – S

It’s been a career to remember so far for Harrison Smith, who is still one of the league’s best safeties, and he proved as much once again in 2020.

The Vikings are heavily reliant on their defensive leader in all phases of play, but the upcoming campaign is one of critical importance for Smith in pursuit of a longer-term commitment from the organization.

He is entering the final year of his deal and will count $10.23 million against Minnesota’s salary cap this season. The former Notre Dame standout isn’t getting any younger, so any regression in his play next season could result in the Vikings going in a different direction.

It would be bizarre to see a defense without Smith anchoring the backend. But the NFL is a cutthroat business when it comes to this sort of thing and Minnesota’s history is littered with examples of great players ending their careers elsewhere. Hopefully, Smith will continue thriving and leading the Vikings during their road to redemption.

There are only a few safeties across the league performing better. Of that, there is little doubt. But considering the money he’ll probably be looking for with another strong campaign, it might not be something Minnesota can afford despite the cap possibly soaring to around $208 million in 2022.

Smith has to prove beyond all doubt there is plenty more to come despite his advancing years and his future in Minnesota ultimately depends on it.