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Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Patriots eyed Will Smith in '04 draft

By Mike Reiss

Bill Belichick's scouting files can sometimes come in handy, even 11 years after the fact.

That thought came to mind Tuesday with news that free-agent defensive end Will Smith (Saints) was visiting the Patriots. Smith was on the Patriots' radar in the 2004 draft.

"He was certainly a guy we had a lot of interest in," Belichick said in 2009 when asked about Smith prior to a Patriots-Saints game. "He's a big guy who can run, rush the passer, pursue well, strong player at the point of attack, athletic, plays on his feet. He's got a group of skills, plays hard, been productive. I think he's been the player people thought he would be."

The question to ask at this point, 11 years later, is if Smith still has something left in the tank to help the Patriots.

If Belichick and his staff determine that he does, a potential role should be pretty straight-forward.

Reflecting on the 2004 draft, Belichick said he didn't view Smith as an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid as much as a pure pass-rusher. It wasn't necessarily that Smith couldn't drop into coverage, but Belichick compared the situation to Julius Peppers in that a coach wouldn't want to drop him into coverage because it took him away from doing what he does best -- rushing the passer.

Smith ended up going 18th overall to the Saints. The Patriots then drafted Vince Wilfork 21st overall.

Smith's visit to New England sparks thoughts of the possibility that the duo could be lining up alongside each other in 2014.