One of the larger busts of what has become a bust-filled 2009 NFL draft is getting another shot as the New Orleans Saints announced on Thursday that they had agreed to terms on a one-year contract with free agent offensive tackle Jason Smith.
The Saints lost left tackle Jermon Bushrod to free agency as the two-time Pro Bowler signed a five-year, $35.965 million contract with the Chicago Bears. The Saints have invested big money on their guards — starters Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs will earn $12.7 million in cash this season — which hasn't left much financial resources for the tackle position.
2010 second-round pick Charles Brown is penciled in as the Saints' starting left tackle, but the former USC standout has just eight NFL starts under his belt. Zach Strief returns as the starting right tackle, but he missed four games last season and has never started more than 12 games in a single season. Smith adds depth at the position and will compete with 2012 seventh-round pick Marcel Jones and Bryce Harris for the "swing" tackle role.
Multiple concussions have prevented Smith from becoming the elite left tackle the Baylor product was projected to be when the St. Louis Rams selected him with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2009 draft. Smith, who was signed to a rookie contract that contained $33 million in guaranteed money, started 26 of his 29 games with the Rams, but those concussions limited him to eight games as a rookie and just six games during the 2011 season.
By that time, however, Smith had lost the left tackle spot to 2010 second-round pick Rodger Saffold and was moved to right tackle. The Rams restructured Smith's contract last offseason before trading him to the New York Jets in exchange for Wayne Hunter.
Smith was active for all 16 games, but did not make a single start and, according to official playing-time documents, logged 23.93 percent of the Jets' offensive snaps and 9.91 percent of Gang Green's special teams snaps. Smith's renegotiated deal with the Rams, which the Jets acquired, had called for the tackle to receive a $11.25 million roster bonus if he were on the team on the first day of the 2013 league year. The 2013 year in the contract would void if Smith reached minimal playing-time requirements in 2012. Smith came up well short of that threshold and the Jets released the veteran on February 19.