Will Smith deal cleared $4.78 million for cap

The New Orleans Saints have saved $4.78 million in salary cap space by restructuring the contract of veteran defensive end Will Smith, according to numbers obtained by ESPN.com.

The deal was finalized Monday as the Saints position themselves to be under the salary cap at the start of free agency. That could be a challenge because the Saints have placed a franchise tag of almost $15 million on quarterback Drew Brees and want to attempt to re-sign guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston, as well as some other free agents. The Saints likely will be releasing some veterans in the coming days, but restructuring Smith gives them some added flexibility.

The deal was signed Monday and it dropped Smith’s 2012 base salary from $7 million down to the veteran minimum of $825,000. But Smith was well compensated for working with the Saints. He received a $6.175 signing bonus as part of the restructure. He also is scheduled to earn a $1 million roster bonus in late March and a $150,000 bonus for taking part in an unspecified number of the team’s offseason workouts.

The only downside is that Smith’s 2013 cap figure jumps to more than $14.5 million and will be almost $14 million in 2014, the final year of the contract. But the Saints can restructure the deal again in future years to make it more cap friendly.