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2018 Bengals free agency profile: Offensive lineman Andre Smith

Since joining the NFL in 2009, Andre Smith has played nearly his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals. Will he re-sign with the team this offseason?

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive lineman Andre Smith has had one of the most unique NFL careers of any player in recent memory. After being selected at No. 6 overall by the Bengals in 2009, Smith’s career got off on the wrong foot (see what I did there?).

After getting through various injuries in his first two professional seasons, Smith then began to play at a near-Pro Bowl level at right tackle. Unfortunately, more injuries ensued and he went on to spend another injury-riddled season with Mike Zimmer and the Vikings in 2016.

Cincinnati brought him back one year later, in hopes that he could either become their starting right guard or act as a band-aid at offensive tackle. Things never materialized at guard for him and he was a surprising backup as the season began.

Now, after signing a one-year deal last offseason, Smith is set to be a free agent once again. Will Cincinnati look to re-sign him in an offseason many figure them to be active in adding offensive linemen?

2017 performance recap:

Let’s not sugarcoat it: the Bengals’ offensive line was a mess this season. The unit was responsible for a 30th-ranked rushing attack last year and allowed 40 quarterback sacks on the season (13th-worst).

Still, there were some signs of brief improvement at varying points of the season. Smith played in 13 overall games for the Bengals last year, but started in just eight of those contests. And, in familiar fashion, Smith was dinged up for the final two games of the season.

Cincinnati finally started Smith in Weeks 4 and 5, against Cleveland and Buffalo, respectively. The Bengals went 2-0 in those must-win games and Smith seemed to steady an ailing group.

He was a reserve for three straight games after the bye, and the Bengals went just 1-2. Smith then started the subsequent six contests and Cincinnati went just 2-4. Go figure.

Franchise tag information and 2017 contract details:

2017 tag numbers for his position: $14.271 million

2018 franchise tag possibility: No

2017 contract: One year, $3.25 million

Outlook and re-signing possibility:

There’s no doubt that Smith is a Mike Brown favorite. It’s why the team stuck by him for so long after so many frustrating issues and why he’s received three different contracts from the club in nine accrued seasons.

When Brown spoke with the media a couple of weeks ago, he told editor Geoff Hobson that he was eager to get a deal done with the veteran lineman. The team’s owner noted that Smith “dampened the fire” along the line in 2017, as a myriad of issues plagued the group.

There is a handful of major questions both the Bengals and Smith’s camp need to answer in this round of negotiations.

  • Is Smith looking to start?
  • If so, where on the line?
  • What kind of length and financial structure within a contract works best for both parties?

If the choice came down to Smith and re-signing Eric Winston once again as insurance policies along the line, wouldn’t you choose Smith? Overall talent, positional flexibility and age definitely play in his corner, even if contract value doesn’t.

Possibility of re-signing with Bengals: 85 percent