The Bengals’ offensive line is in a serious state of flux this offseason. On Thursday, the Bengals lost both left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler, their two best linemen, to the Rams and Browns, respectively.
There has been discussion about where the Bengals go from here and how they can fill those shoes. The obvious direction the Bengals will most likely go in is the draft. But, free agency is also another potential option. In fact, former right tackle Andre Smith, who left for the Minnesota Vikings last offseason, is a free agent again in 2017. There has been talk about bringing him back to help stabilize the offensive line. Former Bengals offensive lineman and current Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham thinks it could happen.
“I think that’s a possibility,” Lapham told Lance McAllister on 700WLW’s Sports Talk. “That discussion has already taken place. I’m sure they’ve already been in contact, and probably trying to see, medically, where he is.”
One of the primary reasons the Vikings have not re-signed Smith is his injury history. He has had trouble staying on the field for the majority of his career, missing a total of 42 games in his eight seasons. Bringing Smith back to Cincinnati doesn’t make much sense in the first place due to his on-field inconsistency and problems with penalties. But, if that wasn’t enough, his injury history should convince the Bengals to not bring him back.
“He had the elbow injury, the tricep tear. He had more problems than a run-over dog. Upper and lower body,” Lapham said. Again, in Minnesota, he went on Injured Reserve. The best ability to have is availability and Andre hasn’t been the greatest, with respect to availability and avoiding injuries.”
The only argument for bringing Smith back that makes sense is that they could bring him back cheaply. His experience in the Bengals’ system and the Bengals’ problems at right tackle warrant a move, especially if he agrees to come back for relatively little. Losing Whitworth and Zeitler only heightened the Bengals’ need for additional help along the line.
“He went to Minnesota for $3 million, which wasn’t a great marker for him,” Lapham said. “He’s certainly not going to be better for that now. If you can get Andre Smith for a couple mil, shoot, why not pull the trigger on that?”
Bringing Smith back on a low-risk contract is the only situation in which him returning makes any sense for the Bengals. They are trying to bring the new generation of offensive linemen along and simply need depth players for insurance and to help get guys like Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher to where they need to be. If Smith is willing to accept that role, his return would be welcomed. But, any significant investment into his future with the team would be counterintuitive to the Bengals’ best interests going forward. If the Bengals are going to add to their offensive line, it should be with a trustworthy starter who can boost the unit, not with a familiar face who was allowed to leave just a year ago.