For a second-consecutive offseason, the New Orleans Saints need a favor out of Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith. According to The Times-Picayune, New Orleans asked both Vilma and Smith to restructure their contracts for the 2013 season -- moves that would help give the Saints some much-needed breathing room as the offseason gets underway.
Prior to restructuring Curtis Lofton's contract, the Saints were roughly $20 million over the 2013 salary cap. Restructuring Lofton's deal saved $4 million toward the team's salary cap figure. The Saints still need to create about $16 million of cap space prior to free agency and consequently have asked Vilma and Smith, two of New Orleans' defensive leaders, to restructure their deals.
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Per Larry Holder, Smith is currently in line to be the second-highest paid player on the Saints in 2013. Smith's base salary is $9 million, while his cap figure is a whopping $14.5 million, making him an ideal candidate to restructure. Smith graded out as one of the worst defensive ends in the league last year and isn't likely to stay in New Orleans if he doesn't agree to restructure his deal.
Vilma's base salary is roughly half of Smith's, at $4.8 million. Vilma's cap number is $8.6 million.
Sean Payton's hiring of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator complicates matters. Under Steve Spagnuolo, the Saints operated out of a 4-3 defense, with roles clearly defined for both Smith and Vilma. Ryan will bring his 3-4 defense to New Orleans, making Smith and Vilma's future in the defense murky, even if they do agree to restructure.
If Smith and Vilma are going to be Saints in 2013, then they'll likely need to take a rather drastic paycut when restructuring. With both Vilma and Smith aging, the Saints hold a fair amount of leverage. Releasing both players would help the Saints clear out necessary cap room, and would allow the team to target players that fit Ryan's defensive scheme better.
Smith will likely have to take a larger pay cut to remain with the Saints than Vilma will. Given recent performance, both players will likely be asked to shed around 50% of their salaries. Such a move would afford the Saints cap space to work with, while keeping two defensive leaders on the team.
If Smith or Vilma aren't amenable to restructuring their contracts, then their release is almost certain.