It shouldn’t shock anyone, but the Bengals want to bring Andre Smith back.
It is more newsworthy that Mike Brown confirmed it himself in an interview with Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ official site:
Brown said he’d like to re-sign free agent tackle Andre Smith after he came off the bench to “dampen the fire,” when “we had some injury and developmental,” issues at the position.
Yet while Brown would like Smith to return, he says it has “to play out,” as the Bengals examine free agency.
I think Smith will have a hard time finding a better landing spot at the ripe old age of 30 years-old in the NFL. He gets to stay in a situation where he can likely be the veteran presence for an offensive line that really needs it. Plus he can play guard or tackle, which makes him extra valuable on game days if an injury happens.
Smith is by no means the answer at the tackle position. He had his struggles during the season, and it was obvious he could be taken advantage of by elite pass rushers. Still, he is a valuable insurance policy. He proved that this season as he was rotated in the line up at tackle when Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher struggled early in the season. That move was one of the catalysts for the Bengals improving offensively.
He then became the starter once Fisher’s season ended with an irregular heart beat, and he was a solid player. He started until Week 14, and then his season came to an unfortunate end with a leg injury.
The idea the Bengals need to let this “play out” is kind of silly. I’d offer him a deal before free agency even starts at least. If he doesn’t sign then see what he gets, and if it is something reasonable try and match it. I’d have a hard time believing Smith would actively look to leave the Bengals this offseason.
He may have some concerns about the switch from Paul Alexander to Frank Pollack at the offensive line coach position, but this is still a place that would likely love to keep his veteran leadership.
Smith is the kind of player you can keep doing the one-year deals with like the Bengals did with Andrew Whitworth.
Obviously, it was different stringing along a player like Whitworth year after year, but considering Smith’s lack of success outside of Cincinnati, other teams probably aren’t keeping too close of an eye on him.
There are a lot of uncertainties for Smith and the Bengals as they both head into free agency. We still aren’t certain about Fisher’s future after the irregular heart beat, and whether the Bengals will bring in a tackle via the draft, free agency or both to help fix that spot.
Smith is also coming off an injury heading into free agency, and at 30, that is a red flag for most teams. The answer seems pretty simple for both sides: Just bring Smith back.