Patriots Sign Will Smith, Boost Pass-Rush Depth Just Before NFL Draft

will_smith_saintsThe New England Patriots added a veteran pass rusher just days before the 2014 NFL draft.

The Patriots are signing former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, a source told ESPN’s Mike Reiss and Field Yates on Monday. The team later announced the deal, although terms weren’t disclosed.

Smith missed the 2013 season after tearing his ACL during the preseason. The Saints had tried moving Smith to outside linebacker last summer.

Smith’s best season came in 2009, when he had 13 sacks for the Saints. The 6-foot-3, 282-pound defender had six sacks in 2012.

The Patriots hosted Smith, who was drafted by the Saints 18th overall out of Ohio State in the 2004 NFL draft, on a free-agent visit last month.

The signing lessens the Patriots’ need for a pass rusher in this week’s draft, which starts Thursday, but given his age and injury history, it wouldn’t be surprising to see New England take another defensive end.

Smith boosts the Patriots’ depth at defensive end, where they had just Michael Buchanan and Jake Bequette backing up starters Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. Jones and Ninkovich led defensive ends in snaps last season. Smith could give both players some much-needed rest in 2014.

Smith is the Patriots’ seventh free-agent addition, joining cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis, safety Patrick Chung, wide receiver Brandon LaFell, linebacker Josh Hull and long snapper Charley Hughlett.

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