Although Will Smith, one of the Saints’ most recent salary cap casualties, would prefer to return to his natural position as a defensive end in a 4-3 front, he remains open to serving as a 3-4 outside linebacker as well, according to NFL.com’s Kevin Petra. Of course, Smith expected to move to outside linebacker last season after Rob Ryan was hired as the Saints defensive coordinator, but a torn ACL ended his season before it ever really began. Smith said:
“I think I’m at heart a 4-3 defensive end. That’s something I would like to play. But if I go to a team that requires me to play outside linebacker, I’m cool with that too.”
As Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes, Smith is wise to keep his options open. Just last season, Dwight Freeney expressed a desire to return to his natural position of 4-3 defensive end, but when Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram tore his ACL, a different opportunity opened up for Freeney.
Smith’s track record as a pass-rusher is likely to appeal to a number of teams, particularly if those teams believe he would be open to whichever defensive scheme they utilize. His age (he will be 33 when the season begins) will keep his cost down, and as players like Freeney, John Abraham, and James Harrison proved last season, there is a market for an older player that can still get after the quarterback. Furthermore, since Smith was cut and was not an unrestricted free agent, he would not count against the compensatory pick formula, making him even more attractive to teams that keep an especially close eye on their compensatory selections.
As Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com writes, Smith is an eminently viable option for the Patriots. However, he will likely have a number of suitors to choose from as the offseason progresses.