The Bengals will almost certainly use their franchise tag this offseason with several key players set to become free agents. Most have believed offensive tackle Andre Smith would be the one to receive that, as he has established himself as one of the elite right tackles in the NFL today. He finished the 2012 season with a +26.9 grade by Pro Football Focus, the 4th-best by an offensive tackle, and the best by a right tackle.
Smith is clearly a franchise tackle that cannot be allowed to leave Cincinnati, and after a rocky career in Cincinnati that began with a prolonged contract holdout, multiple serious foot injuries, and weight concerns, it’s hard to think the Bengals are ready to invest a long-term contract worth $50 million+, which would make one think he’s a likely candidate to get the franchise tag.
That may not be the case according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com:
(Michael) Johnson is the leader-in-the-clubhouse to get franchised if there’s no deal before March.