August 17, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith (91) against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Will Smith has had a tumultuous few years with the New Orleans Saints and things are set to get worse for the defensive end in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s new 3-4 defense.
According to Larry Holder of NOLA.com, General Manager Mickey Loomis says Smith will have to make the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker.
It’s a shocking development for multiple reasons. For one, Smith is going to have to lose some weight if he wants to effectively contribute as a linebacker. At 282 pounds, Smith is simply too heavy for the position. Of course, he’s arguably on the light side of things to act as a 3-4 defensive end.
Smith is 31 years old and has had issues getting to the quarterback in the past few years. After recording 13 sacks in 2009, Smith has failed to tally more than 6.5 sacks in a season. The ineffectiveness is part of the reason his salary was slashed by $6 million this offseason so he could even stay with the team.
Now Smith is tasked with learning a new defense, potentially cutting weight and finding a way to be productive. Depending on how Ryan wants to use him, Smith may be asked to drop into coverage and be stout in run support as well.
Outside of the above challenges, Smith is going to have to beat out talented players such as Victor Butler, Martez Wilson and Junior Galette for playing time. At this stage of his career, it’s hard to see Smith doing so, especially when it’s likely his last season in New Orleans with the team scheduled to pay him over $10 million in 2014.
The move for Smith simply reeks of desperation from the coaching staff. That, or they truly don’t know what to do with him. Outside linebacker was one of the team’s biggest needs heading into the draft, but the front office simply didn’t have enough picks to address each need.
Smith is not the answer for the Saints at outside linebacker. Its seems like a one-year experiment at best before the team moves on to younger, more fluid fits at the position.