The Saints wrapped up a busy offseason, one in which they worked hard to dramatically improve their defense, by keeping one of their top defenders.
Right defensive end Will Smith, a five-year veteran who was selected to play in the Pro Bowl after the 2006 season, signed a seven-year contract that'll keep him with the team through the 2014 season.
Smith's old contract, which he signed after the Saints made him their top draft pick in 2004, was set to expire after the upcoming season.
Smith sat out most of the team's voluntary offseason workouts. But he participated in a mandatory full-squad minicamp in late May and then showed up for the final two weeks of organized team activities.
It was believed that Smith attended the workouts because he, agent Joel Segal and team officials were closing in on a deal. Early reports had the contract worth up to $70 million, but some sources put its value at $63 million.
"We are excited about getting this long-term contract done with Will," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. "We view him as one of our core players and look forward to him having an impact on our defense for years to come."
It's the second time in a year that the Saints have come up with a big contract to keep a key member of their defensive line. Last summer, the Saints gave left defensive end Charles Grant a new seven-year, $63 million contract after tagging him as their franchise player.
There's little doubt that the Saints would have franchised Smith, who is generally regarded as their top defensive player, had he played out his contract this season.
Smith, the 18th overall pick of the 2004 draft, has recorded 33.5 sacks in four seasons (including 10.5 in 2006) while starting 43 of 62 games. He has 265 career tackles, 12 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and 12 passes defensed.