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The Chronicle: Recalling Andre Smith's redemption, Green vs Peterson, targets at wide receiver

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In this Chronicle, we're review the the path that Andre Smith walked but question if he'd generate much interest in free agency next year. We also remember back to when we debated A.J. Green v Patrick Peterson and examine possible targets at wide receiver for the draft.

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
RECALLING FREE AGENCY HISTORY AT OFFENSIVE TACKLE

The idea that Cincinnati could lose Andrew Whitworth AND Andre Smith to free agency is fantastically ridiculous. Cincinnati, who has signed Whitworth to four extensions, could view another Whitworth extension as their top priority -- especially since A.J. Green will probably be franchised this time next year. Whitworth isn't just one of their best players... he's THE leader. Allowing him to leave for free agency next year wouldn't be consistent with the team's 1) philosophy on keeping their own and 2) holding onto players with the best character and top leadership personalities.

Smith, on the other hand, is a more complicated story. Two years ago, Smith spent nearly two months in free agency without any interest. He returned to Cincinnati in April 2013, during draft weekend to negotiate a deal. If something wasn't reached soon, the Bengals had targeted Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson. Smith and the Bengals reached a last-second agreement and instead of drafting Watson, the Bengals selected North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard.

"(Smith) waited until the last possible second," said offensive line coach Paul Alexander right after a three-year agreement was reached during the second round of the 2013 NFL draft. "Mike (Brown) brought him in the draft room and showed him we had (Menelik) Watson on the top of our board. He said, ‘It's a good thing you signed.'"

Watson, who went five picks later, has played 17 games including 12 starts and the Raiders are already concerned that he's a bust (you should compare their respective careers side-by-side).

It's important to note how difficult it was for Smith to find interest on the open market that year. Pro Football Focus ranked Smith as the top right tackle in 2012 -- the final year of his four-year rookie deal (the Bengals declined a two-year option).

However, at the time there were significant concerns related to work ethic and durability, having missed 21 of 48 games during his first three seasons. Bengals coaches tried to motivate Smith publicly, with Marvin Lewis famously questioning Smith's professionalism. "Andre’s going to figure out how to become a pro and do things the way it’s asked to do all the time," said Lewis in August 2010. "Hopefully he continues to do it in a timely fashion. Because otherwise, I’m not going to go through this year in and year out."

It wasn't until a player-organized offseason training session during the 2011 lockout when everything clicked. When Smith arrived in Cincinnati that year, injured with a surgically repaired ankle, he walked up to Whitworth and the starting left tackle reflected: "The first thing he said to me was, 'Whit, it's my time. Time for me to step up.'

And he did.

"Last year Andre really grew into the player we drafted and expected to have," Lewis said in August 2012, a year after Smith made his comments to Whitworth. "Unfortunately it got delayed and sideways (during his rookie season) for different reasons with the holdout and an immediate injury and so forth. He really has taken a lot of steps in maturity... You just saw the personality come out of a guy that was picked where he was picked in the draft. The total man – all the qualities of a first-round pick, particularly a high first-round pick – they began to emerge throughout last year. He's kind of picked up where he's left off. He's had a really good, productive offseason. That's a great positive step for him."

Now Smith enters his fourth season as the team's starting right tackle, coming off a torn tricep, opposed to the ankle/foot issues that dominated negative discussions due to his weight. He struggled in 2014 but from 2012 through 2013, he was a stabilizing force that the Bengals expected when he was drafted sixth overall in the 2009 NFL draft.

Could the Cincinnati Bengals re-sign Whitworth and Smith before the start of the regular season? Would it shock if you they preferred to go that route rather than drafting an offensive tackle in the first three rounds?

POSSIBLE WR TARGETS IN THE DRAFT

It's fairly clear that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to drop their first-round fishing reel into the pond to snag a wide receiver early in the draft. First round? Maybe. Mostly cloud, as the old axiom goes. Second or third round? Perhaps. Here's the reasoning for wide receiver: A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are entering contract years and the depth behind those three is awful. There's a hope that Denarius Moore is a recoverable project that could rebuild a career that was demolished in Oakland. Otherwise, an injection of talent -- using an over sized needle -- is needed.

Doug Farrer with Sports Illustrated released his position rankings at wide receiver:

  1. Kevin White, West Virginia
  2. Amari Cooper, Alabama
  3. DeVante Parker, Louisville
  4. Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
  5. Devin Funchess, Michigan
  6. Rashad Green, Florida State
  7. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
  8. Devin Smith, Ohio State
  9. Nelson Agholor, USC
  10. Breshad Perriman, UCF

Hue Jackson has reiterated his desire for speed, speed, (slam fist on table) SPEED!

"The biggest threat is vertical speed, not size," Jackson said at the Senior Bowl in January. "If I’m faster than you, but you’re taller than me, I’m eventually going to find a way to get away from you. There are guys that make contested catches, but the common thread for success is speed.

"You’re not going to get open all the time, so you have to make contested catches. But you also have to be able to create separation so the quarterback can feel comfortable throwing it in there."

What about Tre McBride, at least at some point during the mid-to-later rounds? Cincinnati sent wide receivers coach James Urban to the William and Mary Pro Day and McBride ranked sixth at the 2015 National Scouting Combine with a 4.41 40-yard dash.

We know that the Bengals are very interested in Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who could be that "second wide receiver". The Bengals sent wide receivers coach James Urban and special teams coach Darrin Simmons to Duke's Pro Day last month to scout Crowder, who addresses a special teams need for a full-time returner (aka, replacing Brandon Tate). He scored four touchdowns on punt return while averaging 14.5 yards/return on 47 punts over the last two seasons. For comparison sake, Adam Jones has never reached 12 yards/return during any season with the Bengals in which he returned more than 10 punts.

In addition to his returning ability, Crowder has secured 193 receptions in the last two years and surpassed more than 1,000 yards receiving in each of the last three seasons -- and scored 22 touchdowns.

The Bengals have also scheduled a workout with Florida returner Andre Debose.

If we're to project the Bengals game plan:

1) a wide receiver that will earn significant playing time as a first-team threat;
2) a wide receiver that will mostly work special teams as a returner.

PATRICK PETERSON RECOVERING; A REVIEW OF THE 2011 NFL DRAFT

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson told Kent Somers with the Arizona Republic this week that he was a diabetic, but didn't offer much detail. "I am a diabetic. Let's just keep it that way," Peterson said. "It was a situation that it occurred during the season. The team docs found it and got it all under wraps." Due to the attention that this gained, among the media specifically, Peterson released a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

I want to take a moment to address the media reports this morning regarding my health. While I did have abnormal sugar levels, I've been working with doctors on a strategic meal plan and workout routine that are reversing these symptoms. I’m grateful that this has been reversible for me and my health is back to normal. Thanks everyone for their concern and well wishes! Now back to my workouts and getting ready for the upcoming season!

Good.

In the meantime, we look back on the predraft process in 2011, where Peterson was actually a favorite of mine. Rather than explaining myself through four-year old visors, here's a post:

Josh from 2011... If the Bengals surprise the entire population of man by re-signing Johnathan Joseph, Peterson could be used as a safety -- another position that's in desperate need of being addressed. And then when the Bengals elect not to bring Leon Hall back next year (with the idea that the team can't re-sign both Hall and Joseph), Peterson could move back to cornerback next year. We feel Peterson addresses a need while also be considered the best player available -- the difference between he and Green in the BPA argument is inconsequential.

Josh from 2015... To recap: If the Bengals failed to sign Johnathan Joseph, Peterson easily would have replaced him. If the Bengals re-signed Joseph but fail to re-sign Leon Hall, then the Bengals easily replace him the next year. Either way, the issue of keeping Hall and Joseph together was a concern. Sound good? Sounds good.

Josh from 2011... Additionally, the Bengals were strong on defense during both of their playoff runs in the past decade. In 2005, it was about turnovers. In 2009, it was about overall defense. If we allow our defense to slowly break apart as we could do -- such as letting players like Brandon Johnson, Jonathan Fanene, Johnathan Joseph, Chinedum Ndukwe leave for free agency -- then no amount of offensive talent is going to help them return to the playoffs.

Josh from 2015... OK - I overvalued some of those players... a little bit.

Josh from 2011... There's no disputing Green's talent. However if Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell resume their production the way they ended 2010, Green could easily be listed as the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart. Normally, this is good, because the team won't need to put a rookie wide receiver into the starting lineup immediately, allowing him to adjust to the NFL at a position that's often thought to have the steepest learning curve.

Josh from 2015... LOL - Dumbass.

In four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, A.J. Green has scored 35 touchdowns, posted 329 receptions and 4,874 yards receiving. He's been to four pro bowls, named to two second-team All-Pro squads and earned a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team. That being said, Peterson has equally earned a spot among the NFL elite, earning four Pro Bowl selections (every year that he's been in the league), two first team All-Pro honors and has broken several NFL records as a punt returner. Cincinnati wouldn't have gone wrong with Peterson. However, Green was the player that they needed at the time. (queue Chris Nolan-like theme)

REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE RELEASE?

Over the last four years, the NFL released the regular season schedule around mid-to-late April.

2011: April 19
2012: April 17
2013: April 18
2014: April 23