That hasn’t happened just yet, but there is little doubt how much the Vikings value Smith. They traded back into the first round of the 2012 draft after selecting Matt Kalil No. 4 overall to draft Smith. The Vikings gave up their second- and fourth-round picks to get Smith 29th overall, and at the time Spielman laid out one reason that made a difference. By drafting Smith in the first round, they would have the option to exercise a fifth year on his rookie contract, which they did last year and will come into play this year if he doesn’t sign an extension.
“I think when we were pretty aggressive moving up for a couple years, Harrison Smith was one,” Spielman said. “I think Teddy (Bridgewater) was one. When those players we feel very strongly about where we think they can be potential unique players for us and building blocks for our future, and maybe having a sense that maybe where you’re picking – and we were higher up in the second – that they’re probably not going to get to you there. So go ahead and be aggressive and go get the player that you covet.”
The Vikings also played coy with their interest in Smith. The Leslie Frazier coaching staff tutored him at the Senior Bowl, then knowing the type of player and person he was they ceased contact with him until they selected him in the draft.
Smith played in his first Pro Bowl this year and now the Vikings are not only looking to re-sign him for the long-term, but also hoping to supplement his play with another safety.
“I think this: If Harrison Smith was paired with a guy that had some other qualities, we could allow Harrison to be more of an impactful player,” head coach Mike Zimmer said last week. “I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but I think Harrison can be more impactful if he had the right kind of guy next to him.”
Asked if that guy was already on the roster, Zimmer said he didn’t know. Perhaps it turns out to be a player like Anthony Harris, a 2015 undrafted rookie who showed flashes in limited opportunity. Or maybe it’s veteran Terence Newman, whom Spielman considers a cornerback but Zimmer said is more of a “defensive back,” meaning he could play safety if needed, which he did in a pinch last year.
Either way, it’s clear the Vikings value Smith’s impact to their defense.
“The way he runs our back end, I think he’s one of the better playmakers,” Spielman said. “… He can play free and strong. He can be effective on the deep end, and he’s just as effective when he gets walked up to the line of scrimmage. So he’s a good safety.”