By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots have reached a contract agreement with free-agent defensive end Will Smith, from the New Orleans Saints according to Mike Reiss and Field Yates from ESPN Boston.
Smith, visited the Patriots a month ago and got a lot of interest from Bill Belichick when he came out of the 2004 NFL Draft. Smith blew out an ACL last August and missed the entire 2013 season with the Saints but was already on thin ice as he was miscast as an OLB in Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme, implemented last year.
Smith does have 67.5 career sacks, good for fourth all-time in Saints history, but has had more than seven only once since 2006. He will also turn 33 this July and as such is far from a lock to make the final 53 man roster. He was due over $11.5 million in 2014 so the Saints letting him go was a no-brainer.
Smith’s signing should in no way factor into the Patriots draft plans. Assuming he can still play and is completely healthy is a big IF at this point. But at 6’3, 282, he is an intriguing veteran who the team hopes can have a career rejuvenation similar to what Andre Carter produced from them in 2011.
The Patriots still need rotational defensive ends with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich each playing over 95 percent of the snaps in 2013. Former third round pick Jake Bequette has barely saw the field, Michael Buchanan, a 7th round pick in 2013 saw his playing time decrease as the season unfolded. Carter brought back has aged and wasn’t as effective this time around.
Belichick loves his veterans especially along on defense and Smith may carve out a nice niche in the rotation as a situational pass rusher which may add a year or two to the back end of his career, but look for the Patriots to still address the defensive end position this weekend. This move certainly doesn’t bode well for Carter returning and Bequette has to be on thin ice at this point as well.
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