With the money payed to franchise quarterbacks in the NFL, it makes sense that the men who protect the team's investment, the offensive linemen, are also payed very well. As pass rushers have evolved and become bigger, stronger and faster, offensive linemen have had to do the same. The left tackle, who protects a quarterbacks blind side (since most quarterbacks are right handed), has become one of the most important players on a team's roster.
The Bengals have their left tackle in Andrew Whitworth, who is widely considered one of the best pass blocking left tackles in the league, and they had their right tackle in Andre Smith, who emerged as the team's best overall blocker in 2012. Smith is now a free agent and he and the Bengals are at a stalemate. The Bengals would like to keep Smith in Cincinnati, but Smith feels that the team's contract offer "stinks."
It's true that the right tackle position doesn't get the attention that left tackle does, however, former Bengals great Willie Anderson believes that the media and a lot of fans undervalue the right tackle position.
He recently took to Twitter to share his feelings.
Andre Smith contract situation has people bringing up my favorite debate. The underestimating of Right Tackles or people trying to devalue— Willie Anderson (@WillAnderson79) April 2, 2013
I had to fight this my entire career. Most fans and media types live in 1982 era of DLine play.— Willie Anderson (@WillAnderson79) April 2, 2013
The Micheal Strahan type DE 's made people put very good players at the Right Tackle position too.— Willie Anderson (@WillAnderson79) April 2, 2013
Lord Knows Reggie White had Qb's praying that their Right Tackles weren't Bums.— Willie Anderson (@WillAnderson79) April 2, 2013
That last tweet is just a small list of Pro bowlers that I played against who lined up over the Right Tackle position.— Willie Anderson (@WillAnderson79) April 2, 2013
Again, Im not talking about the Bengals offer. No one knows what it is. I just read some fan sites and media blogs under estimated RT's— Willie Anderson (@WillAnderson79) April 2, 2013
Consider an offensive line facing a team like the Bengals in a passing situation. One tackle would have to face Michael Johnson and the other would have to deal with Carlos Dunlap, who are both extremely productive pass rushers. Having a good left and right tackle is very important for any team, especially one with a young quarterback.
It's unclear as to what the Bengals offered Smith. What we do know, though, is Smith reportedly wanted a contract that would pay him something in the vicinity of $9 million per season. However, since the top tackles to hit free agency, including Jake Long, signed smaller contracts than that, it's safe to say that Smith isn't going to get exactly what he was looking for.
Hopefully the Bengals can reach an agreement with Smith before he is stolen away by another team. If they can, it will go a long way to improve the team from where it was in 2012 instead of having to replace some of their best players.