Had he been asked to name the ideal organization for former New Orleans pass-rusher Will Smith to join this season, Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis would’ve said the New England Patriots.
So Loomis couldn’t hide his elation for Smith and the Patriots when discussing his reaction to Monday’s news that the ex-Saint signed a one-year deal to ally with coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, who’ve led New England to three Super Bowl victories, five NFL title game appearances and eight conference championship outings in their last 13 campaigns.
“I’m excited he’s going to have this opportunity with a great organization and a team that has a chance to go to the Super Bowl,” Loomis said in a brief interview with The Advocate on Tuesday evening. “They’re a championship-caliber team with championship-caliber people.
“It’s a perfect place for Will.”
Smith, a first-round pick out of Ohio State by the Saints in 2004, led New Orleans in sacks in 2005, ’06, ’07 and ’09. The Saints won their sole Super Bowl trophy in that last year.
Smith spent most of his career as a 4-3 defensive end, but last year he was asked to become a 3-4 outside linebacker after Rob Ryan took over as his coordinator. In Loomis’ opinion, Smith handled the initial part of the transition well, recording three tackles and a quarterback sack through two preseason exhibitions and the first quarter of a third.
But then, early in the second period of the third exhibition in Houston, Smith hurt his knee on a play in which teammate Cameron Jordan sacked quarterback Matt Schaub.
Smith left the game and subsequently learned he had torn an anterior cruciate ligament. He missed the rest of the season, during which two things happened that benefited the Saints but doomed his further longevity in black and gold.
Jordan earned his first Pro Bowl nod after posting the fifth-most sacks in the league (12.5), and New Orleans surrendered the fourth-fewest yards on defense on the way to a berth in the divisional playoffs.
Rather than pay him a steep base salary of more than $10 million in 2014, the Saints in February released Smith, whose 33rd birthday is in July. He departed with the fourth-most sacks in Saints history (67.5) and third-most forced fumbles (20).
Following the Patriots’ acquisition of Smith, some New England fans and pundits expressed skepticism online about how much could truly be expected from the veteran, who was reportedly given a base salary of $855,000 and a combined $65,000 in roster and workout bonuses.
Loomis weighed in on such thoughts Tuesday.
“I think Will has tread left on his tire — no doubt in my mind,” said Loomis, who was scheduled to host a pre-draft press conference Wednesday morning. “As long as he does a good job of rehabbing that injury, which I know he will and has, ... he has a lot of football left in him.”