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ESPN highlights a free agent pass rusher fit for the Saints

We’re moving closer to free agency, and there’s a good chance the New Orleans Saints are going to make some moves to improve their team. ESPN has already shared their list of the top 50 free agents — now, ESPN staff writer Matt Bowen has linked each of those players with the best teams they could join in March.

And one name was highlighted for the Saints: Za’Darius Smith. Here’s why Bowen sees New Orleans as a good fit for him:

Given the Saints’ cap issues, this would probably be a one-year deal for Smith to play in Dennis Allen’s multiple defense. I like the fit here, though, given Smith’s pass rush versatility. Allen could deploy him off the edge or inside as a stand-up defensive tackle/nose. He’s a power rusher who has 60 sacks in his career (5½ with the Browns in 2023), and New Orleans finished tied for 28th in sacks last season with 34.

Smith has the size that the Saints covet off the edge, and he brings productivity that few players in their lineup can match — Pro Football Focus charting credited him with 61 and 80 quarterback pressures in his last two seasons on the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings. Before that, he was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Green Bay Packers and a big piece in the Baltimore Ravens’ rotation to start his career.

If the money checks out, he’d be a good get. But he shouldn’t be seen as the long-term fix at defensive end. Smith is an older player (he’ll be 32 when the season starts) and he would be joining an aging defense. Four of their top 11 defenders in snaps played are 30 or older, including Cameron Jordan, the second-oldest player on the team. Having two defensive ends on the wrong side of 30 and few young draft picks developing into known commodities behind them is worrisome.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire