Bengals management faces a challenge with potential free agent, Andre Smith. The fifth year offensive tackle is reportedly looking for a contract in the range of $9 million per year. The Bengals picked Smith with their first round pick, sixth overall, in the 2009 draft after his successful career at Alabama in the SEC. He’s been consistent, starting thirty games in the last two seasons including all sixteen in 2012. He was instrumental in Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis’ league leading 14-1 success rate on 3rd & 1 conversions. Praised for his size, quickness and strength, he seems like a critical component for an offense that sometimes seemed timid in 2012.
On the downside, Smith’s demands sound like Pro Bowl numbers despite having never been invited to that party. Many consider him occasionally slow and rank him well down the list of the league’s top linemen. In addition, in the 2013 draft, one without many flashy names at skill positions the Bengal’s might find a suitable replacement. For example, another Alabama prospect, D.J. Fluker will probably be available when the Bengals pick 21st. Fluker may not be as quick and he may not be able to start out as a three down blocker, but when you’re trying to build a running game, he seems like quite an effective steamroller. Another option in the draft is Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, an extremely athletic 6′ 7″ 300+ pounder with demonstrable quickness and a solid work ethic, one thing that Andre Smith might not have learned as an undergrad at Alabama.
While the draft provides some alternatives, the current roster includes Anthony Collins, a veteran with solid game experience and the youngster, Dan Knapp, unproven in the NFL but a solid starter with the Arizona Sun Devils. At the other end of the line, Pro Bowler Andrew Whitworth provides a stable foundation; the eight year veteran leads the team in consecutive starts.