USA TODAY Sports
Using the franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson could change the Bengals' draft plans in April.
The Bengals used their franchise tag on Michael Johnson and while they continue to try to sign him to a long-term deal, we at least know Johnson will be in stripes for the 2013 season. The same can't be said right now of right tackle Andre Smith. The Bengals would undoubtedly like to retain Smith, but since they only get one franchise tag to use and since that tag isn't going to Smith, they can either re-sign him to a long-term deal or let him walk. We have no clue what's going to happen to Smith as of this moment.
If they're unable to re-sign Smith and Johnson to a long-term deal, the team's draft plan will likely be the opposite of what many had expected it to be. The Bengals will have to use two of their four picks in the first three rounds on an offensive tackle and defensive end.
While the Bengals have Anthony Collins locked up through the 2013 season, they would have to use a high pick to replace Smith at right tackle. This year's offensive tackle class is talented and deep and Marvin Lewis spoke about how impressed he was with this year's tackles at his press conference at the combine. There are four or five tackles that could go in the first round and the Bengals may use their No. 21 overall pick on one of them. Some of the offensive tackles that have received first-round grades are Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, Central Michigans Eric Fisher, Oklahoma's Lane Johnson and Alabama's D.J. Fluker.
Then at defensive end, since Johnson is locked up through 2013, both he and Carlos Dunlap would be unrestricted free agents at the end up the upcoming season. If they both have good years and if the Bengals are unable to re-sign them both to long-term deals, they'll have to draft a defensive end this year to make sure they have someone in place for the 2014 season that has some experience. Like offensive tackle, the defensive end class is talented. Some of this year's top defensive ends are BYU's Ezekiel Ansah, Florida States Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, Texas A&m's Damontre Moore and LSU's Sam Montgomery.
Unfortunately, using two of their first four picks on a defensive end and offensive tackle would mean that they can't grab guys to fill holes that existed in 2012, like safety, running back and linebacker. That's the frustrating part about letting free agents leave. While you can replace them, replacing them takes away your ability to fill a void that has existed for a longer period of time.
Hopefully the Bengals not only come to an agreement for a long-term deal with Johnson, but can do the same for Smith. That way the Bengals can focus on fixing the problems that held them back in 2012 instead of fixing new problems.