THIBODAUX, La., March 30 -- The New Orleans Saints retained versatile linebacker Darrin Smith Friday, but it came at the expense of Mark Fields.
The Saints re-signed Smith to a four-year contract and waived Fields, a starter at outside linebacker for the last five years.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Signed last season to a one-year contract at the start of training camp to serve as a backup, the 30-year-old Smith was pressed into a starting role when middle linebacker Charlie Clemons went down in the preseason with a torn Achilles tendon.
Though he lacks the size of a traditional mauler in the middle at 235 pounds, Smith used his quickness effectively and ranked second on the team with 113 tackles and added two interceptions, 21 passes defended and two sacks.
"Darrin is a leader, a very smart player and he can play all three linebacker spots," said general manager Randy Mueller. "He proved that last year by how well he played inside, even though his best position is on the outside. Darrin had a good year but we expect bigger things out of him this year because he'll be playing his natural position."
An eight-year veteran, Smith will take over as the starter at weakside linebacker in 2001, replacing Fields. Clemons is running at full speed in his rehab and will move back into the middle and Keith Mitchell is the starter at strongside linebacker.
A member of two Super Bowl-winning teams with the Dallas Cowboys, Smith has also played with the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks.
A first-round pick out of Washington State in 1995, Fields was coming off the first Pro Bowl berth of his six-year career, but was scheduled to make a $3.7 million base salary in 2001 with a $5.9 million cap figure and refused to take a paycut.
He started 76 games in his career, including 14 in 2000 and recorded 2 1/2 sacks.