The New England Patriots and their fans hope the team improved their defense this offseason by adding free agent cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Now the Patriots are looking for a pass rusher to add to an area where they definitely need some depth. On Tuesday the Patriots hosted free agent defensive end Will Smith, formerly of the New Orleans Saints.
The 6-foot-3, 282-pound Smith was taken by the Saints with the 18th overall pick in the 2004 draft and has played his entire career thus far in New Orleans. The Saints released Smith on Feb. 12 primarily because of salary cap conditions. Smith was due to make $11.55 million in salary and bonuses in 2014, which was also the final year of his contract. He missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL.
Smith is now 32 years old (he will turn 33 this summer) and would most likely play in a nickel-rushing type role. Currently Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are set to be the starters, but there is a severe drop off in production after those two. The Patriots must acquire a pass rusher through free agency, the draft or possibly via a trade.
Smith was actually on Patriots head coach Bill Belichick‘s radar going into the 2004 draft, but he was off the board by the time the Patriots’ pick (21st overall) came around. The Patriots then used that pick to draft Vince Wilfork. The Patriots need a pass rusher now, so could Smith be a good fit in New England now?
For the right price, yes.
Smith has been productive throughout this career and has 67.5 career sacks, although his production has dropped off the last few seasons. Because of his age and the fact that he is coming off of an ACL injury, it is extremely doubtful he will command a big contract. Smith doesn’t need to be a huge game changer; he just needs to add some depth to the Patriots’ pass rush. Smith is the type of veteran the Patriots usually manage to get some production out of before the tank is empty. This could certainly be one of those situations.
The Patriots should definitely not overpay Smith (and they won’t), but if they can sign him at a good price then this acquisition would make all the sense in the world.