Saints want to keep veterans Vilma, Smith

Although their defense statistically was one of the worst in NFL history, the New Orleans Saints are trying to keep the unit together.

Adam Schefter reported the Saints plan to ask veteran linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith to restructure their contracts. In both cases, the Saints would be looking to do something different than simply spreading out salary-cap hits the way most restructures do.

The Saints almost certainly would be asking Vilma and Smith to take major cuts in their salaries. Vilma is scheduled to earn $4.8 million in base salary and have an $8.6 million cap figure. Smith is scheduled to have a $9 million base salary and have a $14.5 million cap figure. Smith also is scheduled to collect a $1 million bonus if he remains on the roster on the 15th day of the league year, which starts in March.

There’s no way the Saints can afford to carry Smith and Vilma at their current salaries. In general players are reluctant to take cuts in pay. But Vilma and Smith have deep ties to the Saints and may be willing to be exceptions to the rule.

The Saints face a difficult cap situation, but they’ve started working their way to get under the cap. They previously restructured the contract of linebacker Curtis Lofton. It’s also likely the Saints will restructure the deal of guard Ben Grubbs, who was signed last year in the same free-agent class as Lofton. The Saints freed up $4 million in cap space by converting base salary into a signing bonus for Lofton and it would be easy for them to do something similar with Grubbs.