After missing the entire season with an ACL injury, the New Orleans Saints wasted no time and released Will Smith, who will be one of the more coveted pass rushers in the free agency period, with interest from the New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams coming his way.
Smith was about to become an outside linebacker in the Saints 3-4 system under Rob Ryan but was injured in the third preseason game, cutting his season very short. The Saints did well without him, especially when compared with 2012. However, it wasn’t just the injury and age (Smith will be 33 when next season begins) that cut the relationship short. Smith was due to make $14 million in 2014, and it was only reasonable the Saints release him.
So after 10 seasons, one Super Bowl victory and one Pro Bowl appearance, Smith is looking for a new team. According to him, he’s ahead of schedule of where he needs to be, and should be ready to play football again in two or three months, which works well with other teams showing interest in him, before and after the draft.
Smith isn’t going to command a big price tag if he wants to remain in the NFL, and last season showed us that veteran, proven pass rushers with no contract aren’t getting paid – those that try to hold out for more money are left without a job.
According to ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss, Smith will be a very good fit for the New England Patriots, who need a lot of help when it comes to their pass rushing, something that was easy to see in their loss to the Broncos. Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle noted that his connection with Dennis Allen, who was a defensive line and secondary coach for the Saints in the past, might help him go to the Raiders. Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator of the Saints, is filling the same role for the Rams, and it’s only natural he’ll go to play for him.
In the end of the day it’ll be a matter of money, and if Smith keeps his demands low, there are going to be plenty of suitors for him, and he should be a very efficient addition as long as it is in the 4-3 system.