Defensive stalwart DE Will Smith, currently in possession of the franchise's richest contract, has agreed to restructure his deal to make room for the next blockbuster.
The six-year contract extension he signed in 2008 will only be the largest deal until QB Drew Brees' new contract, which cannot come soon enough.
With the franchise tag held at bay by his impending free agency, the Saints are poised to let LG Carl Nicks and WR Marques Colston hit the open market, not to mention Super Bowl XLIV hero CB Tracy Porter, WR Robert Meachem, DT's Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers and LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
To grease the skids on those impending deals, Smith restructured his 2012 salary, not taking any less money, but guaranteeing this season's salary.
The contract extension he signed in 2008 started in 2009, This allows the Saints to spread his cap hit across the final three seasons of the contract, reducing his cap hit from $10.15 million to close to $5 million.
UPDATE: The Saints saved $4.78 million in cap space in 2012, according to an updated report from ESPN.com. The Saints would have saved $6.15 million by released Smith outright.
Varying reports indicate the Saints are $15-$20 million under a 2012 salary cap value which has yet to be finalized by the league. Smith's cooperation is therefore very significant to Mickey Loomis' difficult job of managing a spiraling Drew Brees' contract situation while putting a half-dozen other significant negotiations on the back burner.
Smith has 25.0 sacks in three seasons on the new contract extension, twice as many as any other Saint in that time. According to football stats site Advanced NFL Stats, Smith has been far and away the best Saint defensive lineman for the past five seasons.