Saints Questions: How will Will Smith's transition from DE to OLB go?

Saints Questions: How will Will Smith's transition from DE to OLB go?

Credit: Getty Images

(File photo) Will Smith #91 of the New Orleans Saints tries to tackle Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins during the season opener at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 18 at 8:29 AM

We’ve hit the home stretch of the offseason with precious little time remaining for players and coaches to get their non-football lives in order.  The first practice for the 2013 season is Friday, July 26.

WWLTV.com will take a look at 10 questions for New Orleans entering training camp and the season. They’re in no particular order, just numbered.

We’ve love to get your thoughts on each day’s topic. Leave your comment below or on the station’s Facebook page to further the discussion.

Which is the critical game on the '13 schedule?

No. 9: Can Will Smith make the transition from DE to OLB?
Will Smith is a 6-foot-3, 282-pound 32-year-old who has started 120 of 139 games in the NFL. The wear-and-tear and toll on his body has been heavy.

And he’s changing defensive coordinators one again, the fifth time since 2004 he has found himself playing under a new system and/or a new coach.

Add that up and it would appear that 2013 could be a tough year for Smith, a player many thought would be let go because of what was supposedly a giant salary cap number.

Smith, though, took a large pay cut, dropping his base salary from $9 million to $3 million, according to ESPN.com, and pulling his cap hit down to $8.5 million from nearly $14 million.

In other words, it appears Smith is itching to prove a point and he wants to prove it in New Orleans, the only place he has called home as a professional. He thinks the switch to Rob Ryan’s 3-4 can help him lengthen his career.

It’s certainly possible.

If there’s any player who can benefit from the switch, it would be Smith. He goes from a three-point stance to starting with his hand off the ground and his eyes in the backfield. He can be quick at the snap instead of reacting. He won’t automatically be hit at the ball is hiked, saving his body from some of the abuse.

In his nine seasons in the NFL, he has averaged a big season every third year. In 2006 he had 10½ sacks. That jumped to 13 in 2009. He finished with just six sacks in 2012 meaning he’s due in 2013 for that big year.

Still, it’s hard to think Smith is going to have another breakout season. He had his second-fewest tackle total since 2007 this past year with 67 tackle. And those six sacks were the third-fewest in his career.

While losing Victor Butler to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament could help his chances of seeing more extensive playing time, he’ll still be in the position of battling younger, more athletic players for a spot on the field.

And you just can’t discount the miles Smith has put on his body and the skill it takes to consistently move 282 pounds into pass coverage.

It’s more likely that Smith has an average year at best than a big year and that means his transition to linebacker won’t be a boon to his career.

But the question is whether Smith can make the transition, not if it’ll be a boon, and the answer is he should be able to make the transition.

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