A reduction in pay generally wouldn't qualify as a vote of confidence.
Smith's return to the team for 2012 once appeared unlikely given his scheduled $10 million salary and concerns relating to concussions and consistency. The Rams' willingness to cut that figure to $4 million and guarantee the money shows the team is serious about Smith returning as its starting right tackle -- consistent with comments from coaches.
Rookie contracts for high draft choices can be notoriously complicated. Brian McIntyre of Mac's Football Blog runs through the details on this one.
The team saves cash and earns a measure of salary cap relief without creating an additional need at tackle. Smith keeps his job, gets a chance to save his career and earns the right to become a free agent no later than 2014.
Smith, the second player chosen in the 2009 draft, has played in 29 of 48 games, starting 26 of them. He joins former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry, chosen fourth overall in the same year, among highly drafted NFC West players to accept lighter contracts after failing to meet initial expectations. Seattle traded Curry to Oakland last season.
Levi Brown, chosen fifth overall by Arizona in 2007, recently took a new deal as well. The Cardinals released him, then re-signed him to a deal affirming his status as the starter, but on terms more favorable to the team.