The Cincinnati Bengals‘ activity so far in free agency has been almost exclusively with their own players from last season’s roster. The re-signings of Kevin Huber and Clark Harris precluded Mike Nugent‘s return, while Rey Maualuga, Adam Jones and Brandon Tate soon followed. However, the Bengals’ very own Marlin still remains at large.
When free agency began, right tackle Andre Smith was clearly the Bengals’ most important potential loss. Because Michael Johnson had received the franchise tag prior to the window opening, Smith was expected to receive the full-court press from the Bengals in negotiations.
As the days turned into weeks, the market for offensive tackles dwindled. Jake Long was the first big name to sign elsewhere, and he got less than experts initially expected he would from the St. Louis Rams. Outside of Long and Ryan Clady, who the Broncos had franchise tagged before free agency began, there were no other high-priority tackles with contracts. The two biggest names left on the market were Smith and Sebastian Vollmer.
Today, that number fell to one.
According to Field Yates of ESPN Boston, the New England Patriots re-signed right tackle Vollmer to a new contract. Other reports have suggested that the deal is for four seasons, but the numbers are as of yet unknown. Even though Vollmer is one of the very best right tackles in the league and could have signed elsewhere to play left tackle, the fact that he re-signed to be a right tackle means that he likely will get less money than Long.
Long’s deal with the Rams was for roughly $7 million per season. Considering Smith entered this off-season expecting to earn $9 million or more per year on his new deal, the Bengals should already have some significant leverage in negotiations.
Vollmer re-signing with the Patriots takes competition off the market for Smith, but it also takes away one of the few teams who were looking to sign an elite right tackle. With Eric Winston still looking for work also, the Bengals can point to a cheaper alternative should Smith look to claim a monopoly on other teams’ interest. Couple that with the Bengals being the team with the most remaining cap room and both sides should want to get a deal done together for both financial and football reasons.