Saints keep Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma

The New Orleans Saints have found a way to keep veteran linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith while still getting under the salary cap.

Larry Holder reports the Saints have restructured the contracts of Vilma and Smith, who were scheduled to count more than $23 million against the salary cap. It’s unclear how much cap space the restructures created, but it’s fair to assume both players took significant pay cuts. The Saints also released linebacker Will Herring.

But Vilma and Smith will have to go through a big transition as the Saints switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme. Smith still will play defensive end, but the change will be more pronounced for Vilma. He did not fit in a 3-4 scheme with the New York Jets earlier in his career and thrived in the middle after joining New Orlans’ 4-3 system.

But coach Sean Payton has said he’s confident Vilma can be a productive inside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.