Smith reportedly believes that his talent is worth around $9 million a year, which would probably be true if he didn’t have so many health and injury issues that he is dragging with him into the contract negotiations.
Unfortunately for Smith, he also has the issue that no other teams seem willing to pay him to be the highest right tackle in the NFL when he has his health issues, as well as having been arrested for bringing a firearm onto a plane in January.
This means that the Bengals will have plenty of time to negotiate a contract with Smith in what will probably be a slow, on-going process that will eventually lead him to signing for less than what he’s looking for, but probably a lot more than the Bengals really want to pay him.
So what happens if the Bengals don’t succeed in signing Smith?
The Bengals don’t need to be too concerned about the situation. For starters, back up tackle Dennis Roland has re-signed with the Bengals to a two-year deal. Roland, who is a decent back up playing in the last 67 consecutive game, is capable of playing both sides of the guard and has played starter during Smith’s health and injury woes over the past few years, so they aren’t crying out for a new tackle.
The upcoming draft is favorable for the Bengals as well, as there seems to be a pretty deep offensive tackle pool. This is bad news for Smith because there are some great tackles even in the first round, so he’ll need to sort his contract within the next month. Currently, the obvious choice being predicted to be taken in round one by the Bengals is University of Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker.
Fluker has been an extremely dominant force for the Crimson Tides over the last two season, being a necessity on the team while they went on to win back-to-back BCS Championships, starting in all of Alabama’s games in the process.
The other first-round option available to the Bengals in the draft is Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson. Watson has a lot of talent, has very quick feet, with great balance and great lateral agility. Working with a top offensive line coach like Paul Alexander would help him work on his issues with hand placement and make him a great answer to the Smith problem.
The likelihood is that Smith will re-sign, and with a cheaper and possibly more dominant player in the draft available to the Bengals, it will certainly put a fire under him to do so.
Simon Greene – Cincinnati Bengals Writer
Follow @simongreene88 on Twitter