March 7, 2005

Saints Steal Smith From Tampa Bay Bucs: defensive back can play safety and corner

The New Orleans Saints made their second move in free agency by agreeing with Tampa Bay safety Dwight Smith on a five year contract.

Smith is a four year veteran from Akron and was a third round pick of the Buccaneers in 2001. Last year he had 83 tackles and three interceptions, and has 12 interceptions over the past three seasons.

The deal is worth $15 million with a relatively modest $3.5 million signing bonus.

The versatile Smith can play both safety and corner, although the Saints are expected to play him at free safety.

In addition to stealing a good football player - the star of the Bucs' Super Bowl victory when he became the first man to returned two interceptions for touchdowns - from a division rival, Smith gives a dimension of speed and proven playmaking ability that has been sorely lacking in the Saints secondary throughout Jim Haslett's tenure.

He was regarded as the top safety in free agency but some teams may have shied away from pursuing him because Smith was arrested last week and charged with aggravated assault with a weapon, that turned out to be a pellet gun at a drive through restuarant. The Saints and Smith's lawyers are confident the charges will be dropped, although Smith could be subject to an NFL suspension if he pleads guilty or is found guilty to any charge.

By signing Smith it may mean that Tebucky Jones' tenure as a Saint is over. Jones was acquired from New England two years ago but never delivered the big play ability Saints coaches had hoped for.

Smith's five-year contract totals out at just over $15 million, with a $3.5 million signing bonus, $500,000 annual roster bonuses in the first three years and annual $100,000 workout bonuses. Base salaries are $900,000 (2005), $1.2 million (2006), $1.6 million (2007), $2.5 million (2008) and $3.5 million (2009).

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