After a one-year hiatus, offensive lineman Andre Smith is back with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The team pulled a move they often make by bringing back a veteran who departed in free agency and failed to find success. Now, Smith is back and is planning to switch positions after playing right tackle for the entirety of his NFL career. Where does he stand on the depth chart and is his roster spot secure?
Weight: 325 pounds
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Experience: Ninth-year player in 2017
Draft Status: First round pick in 2009
Smith is signed to a one-year, $3,250,000 million deal that includes a base salary of $1,250,000, a signing bonus of $1,550,000, a roster bonus of $62,500 and a workout bonus of $200,000 in 2017. He will have a cap hit of $3,062,500 and a dead cap value of $1,550,000 if released, according to Spotrac.
Smith re-joins the Bengals after departing last offseason to sign a free agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings. However, his season ended after just four games due to a triceps injury.
The deal he signed actually netted Cincinnati a compensatory seventh-round draft pick this year. So in other words, Smith spent most of 2016 on I.R. with Minnesota to get Cincinnati an extra draft pick this year.
While Smith was a key player for the Bengals and their full-time starting right tackle from 2011-15, he was not someone the Bengals made any real effort to re-sign during the 2016 offseason. The talented but enigmatic right tackle slowly fell out of favor in Cincinnati during the 2014 season, and that helped lead to his departure to Minnesota last offseason.
After the Bengals spent their first and second-round picks on offensive tackles in the 2015 NFL Draft, Smith's fate was sealed. Originally drafted with the sixth-overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft by way of Alabama, Smith would suffer foot injuries that cost him 19 games during his first two seasons in the Queen City as the 'bust' label appeared imminent.
But while Smith would rebound to have a solid career to the point he should not be considered a bust, especially in what was one of the worst draft classes in recent memory. He was also consistently ranked among Pro Football Focus’ best right tackles from 2011-13, even finishing as the No. 1 right tackle by PFF in 2012. Smith also missed only 11 games from 2011-15, but did miss seven in 2014 with a torn muscle in his arm.
In 2015, Smith missed two game due to a concussion, but started in 15 games, including the postseason. However, his performance was like a roller coaster that saw more bad than good. PFF even gave him a 39.6 grade, which by their grading system made him a 'replaceable' player.
But with Andrew Whitworth now with the Los Angeles Rams, there’s going to be an offensive tackle spot up for grabs this year. Jake Fisher is expected to win the right tackle spot and Cedric Ogbuehi is likely sticking to left tackle, but the Bengals cannot afford to just let him have that spot. Both Ogbuehi and Fisher need to earn their roles as starters and Smith should be considered for the right tackle spot, if necessary, just as Fisher may be considered for the left tackle spot, if necessary.
Regardless, bringing back Smith made too much sense, especially since he’s now expected to start at right guard, replacing the departed Kevin Zeitler. Smith has never played guard in the NFL, but the Bengals feel he’ll make the transition and be a serviceable starter there in 2017. He’ll need to be, considering how Ogbuehi played in 2017 and how little experience Fisher has at the NFL level.
Smith also should help to improve the run game after it struggled for much of 2016. Run blocking has been one of his greatest strengths and the hope is he’ll be able to contribute greatly in that regard this season.
There’s virtually no chance Smith is cut this year. His large dead cap hit if released will almost certainly prevent that from happening. There’s also the fact that this offensive line is very thin at both guard and tackle spots, so it’s hard to see there being many players better than Smith to put his roster spot in jeopardy. As one of the most experienced players on the roster and the anticipated starting right guard, Smith’s spot on the roster is fairly set in stone.
Roster Odds: 85 percent.