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Bengals Have Until August 19 To Make A Decision On Andre Smith

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On August 30, 2009 Smith signed a four-year deal with $21 million guaranteed as the team's sixth overall pick during the 2009 NFL Draft. The contract, which penalizes Smith a game check if he reports over 350 pounds that week, includes a team option that if activated, makes Smith's contract worth $42 million with $29.5 million guaranteed for six seasons. The Bengals have until August 19 to decide whether to pick up those final two seasons on Andre Smith's current contract. If choose not to, Smith will be a free agent after the 2012 season.

Of course Smith's career has been tenuous at best. Two days after a 30-day holdout that resulted with his absence during training camp and a couple of preseason games, Smith fractured his foot during non-contact drills. Eventually the offensive tackle made his career debut against the Cleveland Browns on November 29, 2009, playing the final six games of the season and making his first career start against the Minnesota Vikings when the Bengals came out in jumbo formation with Dennis Roland at tight end.

Around February, Smith had a procedure that was designed to strengthen his injured foot with an expected recovery of around ten weeks. Smith missed all Organized Training Activity sessions over the summer and by mid-August, Smith hadn't returned yet which drew the severe irritation from head coach Marvin Lewis.

"Andre’s going to figure out how to become a pro and do things the way it’s asked to do all the time. Hopefully he continues to do it in a timely fashion. Because otherwise, I’m not going to go through this year in and year out."

Smith did eventually figure it out, working hard to recover and Lewis took notice two months later.

"I think as the back of my shirt will say, ‘Work to do.’ He’s grown up a lot this year, and hopefully he continues to and work as a player and help make us a better football team -- keep working at it. Today’s another opportunity to get better. I like the positive steps he’s taken. I like how he’s grown up as a man and as a pro, and that’s a good thing. The team wants him to succeed; he has advocates who want to see him succeed."

Eventually working his way up the ladder as the team's starting right tackle, Smith unfortunately fractured his fifth metatarsal during practice, forcing the team to place him on Injured Reserve on November 13, 2010.

Concern followed, because the last time he suffered a foot injury, his lack of work ethic was apparent last year. From reports that's began surfacing two months ago, we couldn't have been more wrong.

Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer first wrote during the player-only workouts in early June that Smith was "definitely not over 350 pounds". Smith credited simply improvements with his nutrition and eating right.

"I’ve been working on nutrition and getting healthy. That’s been the major focus and it’s been going real well. I love where my weight is right now. I’ve dropped a bunch and it’s a lot less than it was at training camp last year."

But even needed a motivator behind it. Andrew Whitworth pointed that out:

"Talent is not his issue," Whitworth said. "His weight has been the only issue. He showed up at these workouts under weight, lighter than he's been since he's been here -- and that's with him having a boot on his foot."

Whitworth went on: "The first thing he said to me was, 'Whit, it's my time. Time for me to step up.'

Smith joined the Bengals earlier this week, down to 338 pounds; a weight he's excited about but not willing to settle at.

"I’ve been working on nutrition and getting healthy. That’s been the major focus and it’s been going real well. I love where my weight is right now. I’ve dropped a bunch and it’s a lot less than it was at training camp last year."

It's unfortunate that it took Smith two years to get to this point in his motivations. But if the motivation remains, he steps up, then the Bengals could use him as much now as ever. Aside from a few practices that he may or may not be able to participate in due to remaining recovery, the Bengals will still have to make the decision either to pick up the final years or not. It wouldn't be surprising if the Bengals decided not to, but work on an extension for roughly the same value provided he has the type of season we've expected from the sixth overall pick.