Jason G. Michael Johnson has been tagged. What's your gut reaction on what will happen with Andre Smith?
Josh K. Knowing the Cincinnati Bengals and how they've conducted negotiations in the past, I'm betting that they allow Smith to enter free agency so that they can observe the market value.
Jason G. I'm thinking the same thing. That could be a good thing for the team, though. I think Smith did a good job in 2012 but I think that $9 million a year is a little much. I know it's hard to find good tackles in the NFL, but Smith may find that he's asking for more than he can get. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get paid that much.
Josh K. Said it earlier today in the Bacon, if Cincinnati decides to acquiesce Smith's demand, it wouldn't bother me. Though the first two years were memorable for everything off the field, he made me a believer that he's the best right tackle in the game last year.
Jason G. Oh, I wouldn't mind if they cut him a check for $9 million a year today. That wouldn't bother me at all.
Josh K. The biggest question is if the Bengals agree to those terms, how much does it hurt other negotiations? Michael Johnson is tagged sure, but he's not signed long-term. Now by this time next year, you have to get Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins under contract. And Atkins will likely be the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL.
Jason G. Yeah, the last thing they can do is break. Bending is okay when negotiating, breaking isn't. Of course, being unwilling to bend, as the Bengals have been known to do, isn't okay either.
Josh K. It's not just that though. Having Smith available in free agency gives Cincinnati a decent idea of what they'll need to sign Smith to. If the best offer he gets amounts to $7 million per season, you may save upwards to $10-12 million of total value.
Jason G. That's true. It can work in reverse, though, too
Josh K. Sure it can. It's all in the risk of negotiations.
Jason G. I'm not as weary about Smith, honestly, as I am about Johnson. Smith has slowly but surely progressed. We've all watched him progress. Johnson has gotten better, but his major leap was in a contract year. Is that coincidence, or was he obviously motivated by money? What motivated him in 2011 and 2010? Geno Atkins deserves a huge deal because he produces every year. Johnson hasn't done that and it worries me.
Josh K. Exact same argument could be made with Smith too. Best season being his contract year. Does he revert to pre-2011 version now that he's getting paid? I honestly don't see it out of either player, but it's an argument worth listening to.
Jason G. That's true. Really, unless their name is A.J. Green or Geno Atkins, re-signing them is a huge risk.
Josh K. I'd favor Atkins over Green if it came down to it.
Jason G. So would I. But losing either of them would be a tragedy.
Josh K. In fact, to be perfectly honest, if the discussion were about Atkins, Green, Dunlap, Johnson and Smith, and one can't be re-signed, my pick is probably Smith.
Jason G. Actually, my pick might be Dunlap if that scenario came about. Aside from his rookie year, he has underachieved quite a bit and he has had some very real injury concerns. I do, realize though, that while his sack numbers aren't great, he's still applying a ton of pressure to the passer.
Josh K. Disagree. I'd favor Dunlap over Michael Johnson, if it came to it. Dunlap is a far more productive pass rusher, despite not getting the sacks, he pushes quarterbacks into Johnson and Atkins. Second on the team in the past three years.
Jason G. Because of the franchise tag being placed on Michael Johnson, I actually selected D.J. Fluker for the Bengals in a mock draft I participated in not that long ago.
Josh K. That's the beauty of the NFL draft; it's just over a month after free agency so we'll clearly have an idea on the team's actual needs soon enough. Because obviously if the Bengals keep Smith, there's no reason to draft someone.
Jason G. That's true. What would be a big disappointment, though, is if the Bengals had to use their first-round pick on a tackle instead of filling the holes they had in 2012, like at safety, running back and linebacker. Creating new holes by letting your best players leave is not a good plan when it comes to winning. But I'm just beating a dead horse there.
Josh K. Yes, but it's certainly not the end, Mr. Dead Horse Beater. Where were Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins drafted? Carlos Dunlap? None were first-round selections. And should we debate the number of non-first round running backs that made a pretty strong case for themselves in the NFL?
Jason G. Yes, especially this year. This isn't, to me, a star-studded draft class like the last few years have been. There are several positions, though, like safety, running back and offensive tackle that are talented and deep. There's just no Andrew Luck's, RG3's or Cam Newton's.
Josh K. I think drafting a safety high is a no-brainer. I'd give that the early favorite for the team's first-round pick. Don't see them going into high-spending mode for a free agent.
Jason G. Same here. There are a lot of safeties that have gotten first-round grades, like Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam and a few others. I think Joe Reedy hit the nail right on the head when he said that after Reggie Nelson, there's a big drop off in production at the safety position.
Josh K. Yep. After Nelson you have Taylor Mays, Robert Sands, who allegedly hit his wife and arrested, Tony Dye (who everyone has probably forgotten about), George Iloka and a pair of 32-year old defensive backs leaving for free agency.
Jason G. Rant time.
Josh K. Oh, boy.
Jason G. I don't get the obsession with Taylor Mays. He wasn't benched for the season because of a penalty against Baltimore. He was benched because he doesn't play football very well. He's athletic as all hell, but he has very low football IQ and is rarely in the right place at the right time. I would have loved for that deal to work out, but he didn't pan out in San Francisco and they obviously felt okay enough to practically give him away. I don't think he's going to work out here either but he's got some diehard fans, and I really don't understand why. A player being good in college does not make them a good pro and Mays is not a good pro. Deep Breath.
Josh K. Feel better now?
Jason G. Yes, I do. Now, bring on the hate mail.
Josh K. You can direct that to @JGarrisonSBN on Twitter.