DENVER (AP) _ Denver Broncos defensive end Neil Smith spent Monday in his hometown of New Orleans, where he spoke to Saints officials about signing with the team.

``He's a great leader and a good clubhouse guy who I think can still play,'' Saints general manager Randy Mueller said. ``If healthy, he can still rush the passer. There's mutual interest.''

The Broncos have been hoping to re-sign Smith, but not at the $2.5 million base salary he had been scheduled to make before Denver released him the day before free agency started.

Now that there is a sincere interest in New Orleans, the Broncos could have a difficult time luring Smith back to Denver for what could be the last season of his career.

``This is home,'' Smith said of New Orleans, where he was born and raised. ``All of my family is here and I've got a lot of friends here. It would be great to come back and finish my career in New Orleans.''

The Saints, who will have no first- and third-round picks in the draft, have been rebuilding their roster with free agents. Smith said the strategy reminded him of the Broncos in 1995, the year Mike Shanahan took over a team with few top draft picks and restocked its roster with free agents.

``What New Orleans is doing now is what Denver did,'' Smith said. ``They've signed a lot of good players and that's what brought me here and raised my interest. But it's out of my hands now. It's up to New Orleans.''