Oct 14, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andre Smith (71) before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
When looking at this offseason as a whole for the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s now impossible to call it anything but a success after they’ve retained every key free agent while adding another solid NFL Draft class. But it’s hard to argue with the fact that their biggest move (figuratively and literally) came in the re-singing of Andre Smith, who has become one of the top right-tackles in pro football, and will now be an anchor on one of the best offensive lines in the NFL for at least the next three seasons. It was a long and hard-fought battle between the Bengals and Smith this offseason, as both sides couldn’t reach a contract agreement until the Bengals were in the draft room ready to select his eventual replacement.
Not only did the Bengals lock Smith up, but the contract he signed will ultimately allow the Bengals to remain flexible in the coming years with several other key players entering contract years. Joe Reedy broke it down exceptionally well as he compared Smith’s contract to all of the other deals that various other offensive tackles signed this offseason:
"As Andre Smith noted last Friday, his 3-year, $18 million contract doesn’t have a lot of filler in it, and considering he has played all but two games over the past two years he should be able to earn almost all of the yearly roster bonuses. The deal signed by New England’s Sebastien Vollmer and extension by San Francisco’s Anthony Davis is highly incentivized.Here is how it relates to average per year:1. Gosder Cherilus (Indianapolis) five years, $6.9 million average per year.2. Phil Loadholt (Minnesota) four years, $6.25 million APY.3. Andre Smith (Bengals) three years, $6 million APY.4. Anthony Davis (San Francisco) seven years,$5,327,857 APY.5. Sebastien Vollmer (New England) four years, $4.25 million APY but if all the incentives are hit, it could rise to $6.75 million."
To think, just a week ago the Bengals were faced with losing their franchise right-tackle and being forced to draft a raw and unproven player like Menelik Watson, all while significantly damaging their chances of rising up to take control of the AFC North. That, or pay him the ridiculous amount of money he was asking for (around $9 million per year) and risk not being able to re-sign All-Pro Geno Atkins in the coming years to a long-term extension.
Instead, they have their best offensive line man signed to a very cap-friendly deal for the next three years, and even if he doesn’t last beyond that in Cincinnati, the team has plenty of time to find his eventual replacement in the NFL Draft, where they’ve routinely found quality developmental lineman in the later rounds.