Today the Patriots announced that they signed Defensive End Will Smith to a deal, adding a strong veteran presence to the defensive line and Pro Bowl ability to the pass rush.
Smith, a 32 year old, nine-year veteran out of Ohio State, spent his entire career with the Saints before being released earlier this off-season. The Patriots did not make it immediately available how many years the contract is for.
Smith is an imposing physical presence, standing at 6’3 and weighing in at 282 pounds. He is primarily an edge rusher that has the strength to overpower a tackle if need be. He is not very strong in coverage but the pass rush is an area in which the Patriots were looking to improve on and Smith, with 67.5 career sacks and 22 career forced fumbles, will be a great compliment to Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, who are both coming off of solid years.
Smith played in all 16 games for the Saints in 2012 and contributed 58 tackles and six sacks. However, he missed all of last year with a knee injury. He may not be at the same level as seven years ago, when he made the Pro Bowl behind 10.5 sacks, or 2009, when he had 13, but he is still a viable DE in a league where that position is at a premium, and it allows the Patriots to have a little more flexibility in the draft, where they were projected to use an early pick on an outside lineman.
Perhaps the biggest advantage to having Smith on the roster heading into camp is the wisdom he can impart to some of the younger defensive players, especially Chandler Jones. Jones is a couple of steps away from putting up ridiculous numbers and being a perennial Pro Bowler, he just needs someone to show him how to carry himself every day; to be the first one in, last one out. Smith should be able to do it. His contributions on the field may pale in comparison to those he makes in the locker room, or during training camp. Either way Smith will be a great veteran presence on the defensive side of the ball and hopefully will add some depth and allow for a rotation of Defensive Ends, something that the Patriots have not had for a while.