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Round Table: Crew Debates The Future For Andre Smith

Andre Smith is an unrestricted free agent in March. How will the Cincinnati Bengals decide his future? A franchise tag, long-term deal or do they do the unexpected?

Josh wrote on Monday that he doesn't see right tackle Andre Smith returning if the Bengals use the franchise tag on him. Do you agree?

JOSH KIRKENDALL: I'll go first. Yes, I agree with Josh
ANTHONY COSENZA: Yes, I agree for the most part. Offensive tackles and defensive ends are both premium positions, but I see Smith as a harder keep for a few reasons. One is that he and the Bengals have had a tumultuous relationship since he was drafted -- from the stalled contract negotiations to poor weight conditioning to the gun issue this offseason.

Secondly, he still hasn't fully shown that he can be trusted. 2012 was his first healthy season and he played well, but there are things about Smith that make you cringe a bit. Third, Smith had the opportunity to still be under contract this season and the team didn't have faith in him. I think he's still on a "prove it" basis with the club--for both their own safety and for the reason of continuing to light a fire under him. So, yes I think he's franchised in 2013 but he won't be here after that.

Josh: The gun issue won't affect negotiations.
Anthony: Eh. Maybe. It's just another mar on an already spotty personal resume since he entered the league.
JASON GARRISON: I will say that I don't agree. I think that Michael Johnson wants to be here and working out a deal with him will be fairly easy. I also think that working out a deal with Andre Smith, in theory, shouldn't be too hard. It's not like he was a four-star player all four years he was in Cincinnati. He only had one really good year and one decent year. He may have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the league in 2012, but I doubt that teams will throw a ton of money at him after only one good season.

On top of that, I think that the Bengals have learned important lessons from allowing Justin Smith and Johnathan Joseph go to other teams. They struggled to replace each of those guys and they still haven't really replaced Joseph. Mike Brown has to know that he can't continue to let his most talented guys go after he builds them up and continue to win. I think they'll do everything they can to keep him here for the long haul, even if they have to use the tag on him in 2013.

Anthony: I mean, think about it: he bailed on the Combine, had really adversarial contract negotiations (Bengals management played a big part there), he's had weight and injury issues and now the gun issue. All of that and he's only had one good season of NFL football to stand on. There's just a lot of baggage that comes with Andre Smith.
Josh: First of all, teams pay much more for potential in today's NFL. But the issues that faced Smith over two years ago won't impact contract negotiations today. Frankly none of that matters because it's always about the "good" season he had in 2012. Teams overpay players all of the time for one good season, hoping to capture a "trend". That's where the market will be set. Not anything before it. If anything, his value hasn't been any higher than it is right now.
Jason: It's true that it is a what have you done for me lately league, but there's a difference between a difference between Andre Smith, Jake Long and Ryan Clady. Smith did it for one season. Clady and Long, especially Long, have done it for much......... LONGER!

Josh: Jake Long is looking for money north of $10 million/year in Miami. You can be assured that Smith, younger with less wear and tear on his legs, but statistically better than Long and comparable to Clady according to PFF, will demand a significant number.
Anthony: True. But then we get into the left tackle versus right tackle value discussion

Jason: That's true as well. I just think that the Bengals have the cap space available to to bring Smith back. The last thing I want to see is for them to use a pick on a new right tackle (who could turn out to be a bust) and let Smith walk and take what he learned from the Bengals and apply it to a new team.
Anthony: Yeah, they sure do have the cap space. Again, I don't think Smith walks this year--I think that the team franchises him. If he has another good year, they will attempt to sign him long-term after that.

Jason: Plus, replacing Whitworth at left tackle, a much more important position, is only a few years away if they're lucky. They can't put themselves in a position to replace both right and left tackles in a short period of time.
Anthony: Yeah, speaking of futures at the Bengals tackle positions, what do you think that holds for Anthony Collins? Think he ever gets a shot--whether it's replacing Whitworth or Smith?
Jason: I don't know. I think it's a bad sign that the Bengals allowed him to test the market and he ended up coming right back to Cincinnati as a backup who barely played in 2012. Maybe we overestimated his ability.

Josh: Back to Smith really quick. I don't see the problem being confidence in Smith as a deciding factor whether to sign him. I think it will be about money and perhaps the value of a well-paid right tackle -- though with Willie Anderson and now Smith, I doubt that's a significant road block. But if he plays under a franchise contract, plays a great year, you've just added millions on his new contract. Long-term deal now will be cheaper in that regard.
Jason: The Bengals are definitely in a pickle. They have Geno Atkins, A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Michael Johnson and Andre Smith all to re-sign or extend in a two-year period. It's either pick and choose or go for broke. I personally hope it's go for broke. We constantly see that teams like the Steelers are having cap issues. Maybe that's why they're successful; they spend their money on their best players to keep them in Pittsburgh.
Anthony: I don't disagree with that, but there's also the flip-side where you sign him to a huge extension and the weight/injury issues resurface. Then the team has really handcuffed themselves.
Josh: That's true. But at some point you have to trust him too. Save for the obvious gun charge, has he done anything since the NFL lockout that makes you think, "I don't trust him"? And seriously? WHERE THE HELL is this snow coming from?

[It's snowing outside]

Jason: It's coming down like crazy here.
Anthony: it's in the sixties here today.
Josh: I hate you.