Free-agent spotlight: DE Will Smith
February, 19, 2014
By Mike Triplett | ESPN.com
The New Orleans Saints have 13 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 11, plus the three players they released last week. Here’s a breakdown on defensive end Will Smith:
Scouting report: Smith is on a very short list of the greatest defensive players in Saints' history -- fourth on the team’s career chart with 67.5 sacks and third with 20 forced fumbles. But the Saints decided last week to part ways with Smith after 10 years together -- in large part because he was due $11.55 million in salary and bonuses this year.
Smith is also coming off of a torn ACL that sidelined him for the entire 2013 season. But he said recently that his rehab is going well. So he should still get an opportunity to land elsewhere.
The former first-round pick out of Ohio State has always been more of a power rusher than a pure speed rusher. And his sack numbers have waned in recent years (after having a career-high 13 sacks in 2009, he hasn’t had more than 6.5 since).
But I’ve always found Smith’s skill set to be underrated -- especially in recent years -- because he makes offensive tackles work hard on every snap by using his physicality to shrink the pocket. He still racked up plenty of quarterback hits and hurries in recent years. And he is also a very good run defender.
Projection: Smith’s options may be limited since he’s 32 years old and coming off of a knee injury. But I still like his chances of hooking up with another team, even if it’s in a rotational role in base defensive packages (something like the Saints’ additions of Kenyon Coleman and Parys Haralson last year).
Smith has spent most of his career as a 4-3 end, which is where he would likely fit best for another team. His leadership will also be valued as a five-time defensive captain coming from a team with so much winning experience.