After months of quiet dalliance, the Dallas Cowboys signed linebacker Anthony Barr last week, who played for the Minnesota Vikings from 2014 to 2021.
Barr was the first draft pick of the Mike Zimmer era and left the franchise during the same offseason as his former head coach. Together, Zimmer, Barr, and others created the NFL’s fourth-best defense per EPA/Play from 2014 to 2021, along with the NFL’s 10th-best overall win percentage for the Vikings.
And with Barr’s departure, just two elder statesmen remain on the Vikings roster. Everyone else since the dawn of the Zimmer era has retired, left in free agency, or been traded.
Smith joined Minnesota via the 2012 NFL Draft and was actually on the roster when Zimmer took over. Former general manager Rick Spielman found Smith in Round 1 with the 29th overall pick, six picks after the Detroit Lions drafted OT Riley Reiff, who’d sign with the Vikings six years later.
As a Viking, Smith has been recognized a Pro Bowler six times (2015-2019, 2021) and an All-Pro twice (2017-2018). Somewhat quietly by national standards, Smith has tabulated a Troy Polamalu-like career:
Through First 144 Games of career —
51 Tackles for Loss
13 Forced Fumbles
42 Tackles for Loss
8 Forced Fumbles
Smith is the longest-tenured Vikings player on the current roster.
After Smith for the longest time with the Vikings, it’s Adam Thielen. He joined the club as an undrafted free agent in 2013, and everyone knows about his Minnesota-laden rags-to-riches ascent to stardom.
Thielen turns 32 in two weeks and has experienced a career shift in the last three seasons. Before 2019, the Minnesota State alumnus curiously produced oodles of receiving yards with relatively few touchdowns. But from 2019 to present, Thielen’s statsheet flipped, ranking fourth leaguewide in receiving touchdowns but 41st in receiving yards.
He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and was credited with Second-Team All-Pro status in 2017.
Interestingly, when the Vikings needed to restructure contracts for the addition of new free agents, Smith and Thielen were the nominees and tweaked their deals with general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah accordingly.