If we've learned one thing it should be players that are under contract can also be utilized as assets, especially when you already have a back up plan in place.
In another post, I suggested using Andre Smith as chip to make a trade for Darren McFadden. Although, I'd love to acquire McFadden one of the main reasons behind the post was because I'm worried about loosing Anthony Collins to another team in FA. One way to avoid this would be to trade Andre Smith (for something) and offer Anthony Collins a starting role on our team. If not, I think it's really going to suck having to watch him become a perennial pro bowler for another team (Mathis anyone), which is a real possibility when he walks in FA this year.
I will concede Andre Smith probably does have bigger upside than Anthony Collins, but I've also seen very little difference in the production on the field. As I stated, one of my biggest fears is Anthony Collins walks (for a chance to start with another team), but then the worst case scenario plays out and we loose Andre Smith next year as well.
If you really think about it, it's not that far fetched. I think most of us can easily see Collins walking for a chance to start. However, I can also see Andre Smith dominating next year (a good thing), it's a contract year and that's kind of been his MO. The problem I can see arising, is the Bengals are likely to grade him on his overall body of work during contract negotiations, however he's going to want to be paid on just his recent performance. If they can't come to terms he could walk and we would be totally screwed and have to start all over at right tackle.
Well here's my plan.
Sign Anthony Collins to a long term deal, he should be a lot cheaper for us to resign this year than Andre Smith will be next year. In fact, since Collins has not been a full time starter and has only had limited playing time, I'm thinking we could still get him for a bargain price as a starter. I think some where in the range of 5 years 18-20 million dollars would be more than enough to retain him. It also would be a very good value for a quality starting right tackle. IMO we would loose very production from the position, if any and our right tackle position would be sured up through the 2016 season.
Next move, utilize our assets. Trade Andre Smith and our 4th round pick this year (maybe even a 3rd next year, if necessary) to the Kansas City Chiefs (they are in desperate need of a right tackle) to move up (6 spots) and take David DeCastro, assuming he's available. With the new rookie wage scale we would be able to sign him for 4 years at about 9 million dollars and we would have him locked up through the 2015 season.
Last move, since we are now basically only paying our right tackle (Anthony Collins) guard type money, we could go out and sign a stud guard (Carl Nicks) and pay him tackle type money at 7 years, 56 million dollars and he would be signed through the 2018 season.
Our O-line for the next 4-5 years would consist of Anthony Collins (an above average tackle), Andrew Whitworth (a great tackle), Kyle Cook (very good center), David DeCastro (best interior line prospect in years), and Carl Nicks (arguably the best guard in the game).
As a whole, we are not overpaying the group because Anthony Collins and Carl Nicks kind of off set each others salaries. For us to make this happen we do NOT have to give up all that much either, we just need to use our assets wisely.
We now not only have a dominat line but we still have our other first round pick to take a CB, and our second round pick to take a RB.
Just one final note: I have nothing against Andre Smith and I actually think he's turning into a fine player. However, I also think because he played so well this past year that his stock has never been higher. With Anthony Collins sitting in the wings, I beleive Andre Smith may be more valuable to us as a bargaining chip rather than a player on the field.