When it comes to NFL free agency, it’s a bit of a gamble, because when a franchise sits down with a free agent, a decision must be made. In negotiating a new contract both sides must be coming at it from the same point of view. Some view new contracts as paying a player for the services they have rendered thus far, and others feel like you are paying a player for what you expect them to do in the future. If the 2 sides cannot agree on this, it makes contract negotiations a real chore.
For the Cincinnati Bengals, they have a list of 21 unrestricted free agents, but none of which is more important than starting right tackle Andre Smith. Smith is a former first round draft pick out of the University of Alabama and while he was the butt of many jokes during the pre-draft process for his weight he has developed into a tremendous player and according to Pro Football Focus, the top right tackle in the NFL. He was the best player on what was a top 10 offensive line in 2012, and the real anchor of that unit.
If the Bengals let Smith walk he is going to become very rich playing for some other team, and it will leave a massive hole on the right side of the offensive line. The team already needs an upgrade at center, so adding in a right tackle as well would seriously slow the progress this team has made. So, what do the Bengals do?
The Bengals are once again in a great position with over $50 million in cap space, and so giving Smith a fair market deal shouldn’t be an issue. But as we have seen the Bengals ownership is notorious for being, well lets say a little frugal, so the one concern Bengals fans should have is that if Smith’s agent comes in and demands top left tackle type of money for a right tackle, the Bengals could baulk at it, and let him go. I would understand their trepidation but I think Smith may have them over a barrel.
My Take-I’d pay him. I wouldn’t pay him a contract like what Houston Texans tackle Duane Brown is going to get, but I’d pay him well above what the top free agent right tackle, Eric Winston from the Kansas City Chiefs got last year. He signed for 4 years and $22 million, but I don’t see any scenario where the Bengals get off that lucky. But if I am the ownership, I find a number just north of that and hope they can keep the big man in Cincinnati because he’s worth it.
What do you think Bengals fans? Is Smith your top off-season priority, and do you open up the bank for him? Come find me on Twitter @nfldraftboard and let me know.