The two biggest free agents the Bengals will be looking to re-sign are defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Andre Smith, and the Cincinnati Enquirer thinks the Bengals will let the open market establish Smith’s price instead of applying the franchise tag, noting his injury past as a cause for hesitation:
Has Smith gotten over the injury issues that plagued him his first three seasons and is he truly part of a core group that you want to lock up for the next couple seasons considering everyone that is up for extensions?
If you can get an extension done with Michael Johnson, then apply the franchise tag to Smith. The more likely scenario is letting Smith test the market and then see what it will take to re-sign him to an extension. If Smith does depart, either Anthony Collins would get his chance to be a regular starter or they will have to look for a replacement in the first round of what is a deep offensive linemen class in the draft.
I too am hesitant to see Smith get a contract that would make him one of the highest-paid lineman in the NFL, especially with potential contract extensions for Geno Atkins, A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, and perhaps even Jermaine Gresham coming in the next two years.