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Andrews Injury a Warning for Tagged Players


Today’s news that Stacy Andrews blew out an ACL yesterday demonstrates the risk players run when they opt to hold out for the most possible money. In 2007, as a restricted free agent, Andrews visited with the New York Jets, who undoubtedly set visions of $ugarplum$ dancing in Stacy’s head. That probably contributed to the inability of the Bengals to reach a long-term deal with Andrews, a fourth round pick in 2004, over the past two years, despite repeated reports of talks.

Certainly, there may be other reasons aside from money. Andrews has long been rumored to want to try to catch on in Philadelphia, where his brother Shaun Andrews plays. And let’s face it: how many NFL players would want to stick around in Cincinnati if they had the chance to go elsewhere, and get paid to boot? Finally, there’s the question of Bengals management, which is legendary for lowballing players in contract negotiations and/or requesting they take a “hometown discount.”

But the Bengals do pay for offensive tackles, as their $5 million a year extension for Willie Anderson and $6.5 million a year extension of Levi Jones in 2006 attest. What we don’t know is if they viewed Andrews primarily as a guard, which the front office puts much lower on the pay scale — think $3 million or so a year, $4 million tops. With top-tier guards now making in excess of $7 million a year, it isn’t difficult to see Andrews declining a new deal in that case, and even if the Bengals were offering tackle money, I’m willing to bet they wanted a “discount.”

Whatever the reason, Stacy chose to play under the $7.5 million franchise tag in hopes of getting into unrestricted free agency in March of 2009. Well, that’s pretty much assured now, but not in the manner he had hoped. With reconstructive surgery looming, followed by a long rehab that puts his availability next August in doubt, I would think that Andrews’ market value just fell to approximately zero. Yes, Carson Palmer came back in a single offseason after suffering a similar injury at a similar point in the season, but there’s a world of difference between a 230 lb. QB and a 350 lb. offensive tackle when it comes to knee injuries. Moreover, Andrews’ quickness and athleticism for a man his size, which earned him the nickname “The Dancing Bear,” was his most compelling feature. Now that, too, is in doubt.

The injury to Andrews could very well mean that, contrary to expectations, he stays in stripes. Again, a 350 lb. tackle rehabbing a reconstructed knee isn’t going to draw much interest in free agency. And the Bengals have put enough developmental work into him that they will probably be willing to offer him a better deal than he will get anyplace else.

Also, the chance that T.J. Houshmandzadeh gets the franchise tag, if it wasn’t already at 100% (which I think it was), just became certain. In franchising Andrews this year and Justin Smith in 2007, the Bengals have shown no reluctance to employ the tag to hang onto their top free agent, and Housh is most definitely that now.