What the…? Nakia Hogan of the Times-Picayune broke the news with this tweet, following a press conference with Mickey Loomis:
Saints GM Mickey Loomis said Will Smith will play OLB in team's 3-4 defense
— nakia hogan (@nakiahogan) May 20, 2013
I for one do not understand this move AT ALL. I'm not sure Will Smith had the edge speed to be a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in his prime, so I definitely don't view that as the case now. I can't really envision a scenario where he'd outperform Victor Butler, Jonathan Vilma, Junior Galette and/or Martez Wilson at that position. In fact, I felt like the one problem with Galette moving to 3-4 backer was the lack of explosive lateral quickness (he's more of a north/south speedster) and that issue is much more pronounced with Smith. I assume this means Akiem Hicks and Cam Jordan will be the starters at DE? I have no idea what this means for Will Smith, though. I honestly don't see him on the field at that position based on the other talent the Saints have. Does he even make the team, or will he be released prior to the season opener? I mean, if they didn't find a fit for him in this system, why not just release him? Maybe they couldn't, financially?
Pro Football Focus' reaction to this news on twitter was "Oh dear".
Rotoworld Football had the following to say on the move: "Smith is 6-foot-3, 282 pounds. It's a comical attempt to fit Smith into the Saints' new 3-4 defense, and an experiment almost certain to end in failure. Aside from a few snaps at weak-side linebacker as a rookie, Smith has spent his entire career as a base 4-3 end. Due a non-guaranteed $3 million after restructuring his contract, Smith is a candidate for trade or release."
I tend to agree with them on this, it makes no sense. At this point in his career, Smith can still absorb blocks fairly well and use his size to control the line of scrimmage. If anything, I think he's aged into being a better fit as a 3-4 end. Let him add 10lbs if he needs to. The idea of him playing outside linebacker in a 3-4, a position that requires edge speed and athleticism, to me makes no sense at all.
Any idea what the Saints could possibly be thinking here? Have they completely lost their minds?