Saints defensive end Will Smith has signed a six-year contract extension that will pay him about $70 million.
The Saints' best defensive lineman becomes the NFL's third highest paid defensive end behind Minnesota's Jared Allen and Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney.
The Associated Press listed Smith's deal at $70 million after getting the figure from a person familiar with the deal who requested anonymity because the terms had not been made public.
Smith had been unhappy with his contract, which was way below to what other top defensive ends in the NFL were making. Freeney is paid about $12 million a year.
Last year, the Saints signed defensive end Charles Grant to a seven-year contract extension worth as much as $63 million if he reaches all incentives.
Smith has outperformed Grant in recent years with 26 sacks over the past three seasons to Grant's 11.
"We are excited about getting this long-term contract done with Will," said Saints executive vice president/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."
Smith, a 6-3, 282-pound product of Ohio State, was selected by the Saints in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft with the 18th over-all pick. He has started 43 of 82 games and has collected 265 career tackles, 33.5 sacks for -221.5 yards, 12 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and 12 passes defensed.
His sack total through his first four seasons is ranked third in team history. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2006, Smith has recorded 121 tackles, 17.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
Smith was elected one of two defensive captains in 2007. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2006.
He received $20 million in bonuses when he signed as first-round draft choice. Smith was expected to earn between $1.8 million and $3 million this season, depending on performance incentives. His new contract will pay him more this season. His agent, Joe Segal, said Smith will be able to show up for training camp with nothing on his mind but getting ready for the season and the Super Bowl.
Smith skipped much of the team’s offseason training program because he was displeased with his contract. He did participate in the mandatory minicamp and worked out with the team the final two weeks of organized activities, which are voluntary.
The final OTA practice session scheduled for Thursday had been cancelled. No reason was given.
By agreeing to an extension, Smith becomes the latest in what has been a busy offseason for the club.
The Saints re-signed 2007 starters and key contributors wide receiver Terrance Copper, center Jonathan Goodwin, kicker Martin Gramatica, wide receiver Devery Henderson, wide receiver David Patten, linebacker Mark Simoneau, running back Aaron Stecker and defensive tackle Brian Young.
The club also added free agents Mark Brunell, cornerback Randall Gay, cornerback Aaron Glenn and defensive back Bobby McCray. The Saints acquired middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma in a trade with the Jets. He figures to be a starter and help the team advance to the playoffs again.
Their offense was good enough last season, but the team failed to advance to postseason play because of a weak defense.