NFL Free Agency: Tag’em or Sign’em: Andre Smith


Oct 9, 2011; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith (71) reacts at the line of scrimmage against the Jacksonville Jaguars during a game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Fernando Medina-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Bengals drafted Andre Smith 6th overall in the 2009 NFL draft, his career as been a bit of a roller coaster ride. It took Smith seemingly forever to sign with the Bengals being one of the bigger (no pun intended, but have you seen his 40 yard dash video?) hold-outs in recent Bengals history. This caused him to miss nearly all of training camp and some of the Preseason. Then when he finally did sign he broke his foot and was ruled out for the first seven games of the season, and questionable for the next. And let us not forget that he spent most of the 2010 season on IR.

Through his limited playing time in his first few season or games (it seemed to be the same amount of time) he play was inconsistent. I don’t mean that it was inconsistent for a veteran, I mean it was inconsistent for a rookie. There were numerous penalties, and he got beat off the ball constantly.

However, this past season Smith has matured in the first round Right Tackle that we thought we picked nearly 5 years ago. He was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the number 4 Right Tackle, in the NFL, terms of pass blocking, and 3rd in the NFL in run blocking. These two rankings earned him the No. 1 Right Tackle in the league this past season.

So the Bengals have a big decision on their hands. Do you attempt to sign him to a long term deal that Smith thinks that he is worth, or do you give him the franchise tag. I know everyone and their brother right now thinks that Michael Johnson should get the Franchise Tag, but there are a couple of factors that you need to take into account.

  1. Andre Smith has a history of being a royal pain to negotiate a contract with.
  2. Andre Smith had an OK year in 2011 and apparently a great year in 2012.
    1. So for someone who has only proven themselves once in their career, do you want to really give him all that money, or give him a sizable one-year contract and make him prove himself again?
  3. Michael Johnson is in the same scenario, but the way that Mike Zimmer runs the defensive line rotation, most of the people on that line are going to gain success. It is the one productive system that the Bengals run properly.
  4. Michael Johnson is already I contract talks with the Bengals.
    1. There has not been a word on what Andre Smith has been doing.
  5. We have more reliable depth on the defensive line  than on the Offensive Line.
  6. It would cost Mike Brown 9.6 Million to tag Smith, as opposed to 10.9 Million to tag Johnson.

So with Johnson already in the midst of his contract talks, and Andre Smith being Andre Smith, A.K.A, the lazy hold out that he is, the best option is to tag Smith to give him a solid amount of money, and guarantee that he is on the team for another year.

Ideally you do not want to let either of them go, but you have a better chance at still succeeding because of depth, but since Johnson is likely to re-sign it is the better decision to tag Smith and not go through contract talks for another year to avoid loosing him and or a hold out.

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