The bad news is that the Bengals weren't able to sign their big-ticket offensive tackle Andre Smith and haven't done so as of the close of business on Tuesday. The good news is that reports have the Bengals locked in on Smith and it appears that they're doing everything within reason to retain him. Rumors should have Bengals fans exercising cautious optimism at this point, but what kind of contract should Smith expect at this point?
Before free agency began, it was reported that Smith was seeking a contract that would pay him about $9 million a year and based on the happenings of the first day of free agency, it doesn't seem as if he'll be receiving that. Four of the league's big free agent tackles were signed on Tuesday: Gosder Cherilus by the Colts, Jermon Bushrod by the Bears, Sam Baker by the Falcons and Phil Loadholt by the Vikings. Baker and Loadholt were re-signers with their respective clubs.
Each of these contracts will surely have a bearing on Smith's contract and his demands so let's have a look.
Sam Baker, Falcons: Though the financial terms haven't been fully disclosed as of the close of business Tuesday, Baker received a unique contract that spans six years. Baker is a left tackle, which has been traditionally valued more than that of a right tackle, but the league's trends seem to be balancing out the salaries between the positions.
Gosder Cherilus, Colts: This contract could very well most closely resemble the deal that Smith could be looking at. Wisely signed by the Colts to help bolster their weak offensive line and protect Andrew Luck, Cherilus inked a five-year, $34 million contract (just under $7 million per year) with a $10 million signing bonus.
Phil Loadholt, Vikings: Loadholt's contract is another that could resemble the one that Smith could get, seeing as how Loadholt is strictly a right tackle. Loadholt signed a four-year deal for $25 million (over $6 million per year) and a $7 million signing bonus. Loadholt is viewed as a critical component to the Vikings' and, more specifically, Adrian Peterson's success in the running game.
Jermon Bushrod: Bushrod made the Pro Bowl last year with the Saints, but some view his success as part of the system. Regardless, the Bears paid Bushrod a substantial contract, paying him almost $36 million over five years (over $7 million per year) with $17.7 million in guaranteed money. Like Baker, Bushrod is a left tackle and that could be taken into consideration.
So there's the barometer. What's interesting to note is the complete lack of interest that was shown to both Smith and the Patriots' Sebastian Vollmer. Neither tackle had a whisper of interest on Tuesday (trust us, we LIVED on Twitter on Tuesday), yet the four who were signed had interest from multiple clubs, by most indications. We expect the Smith situation to be resolved in the next few days, be it in a re-signing with Cincinnati, or a new contract elsewhere.