Entering the offseason, it appeared that the Bengals would choose to franchise-tag either defensive end Michael Johnson or right tackle Andre Smith. Cincinnati has gone with the former, and that means the latter is now set to enter free agency.
And he wants to get paid a hefty wage.
According to Pro Football Talk, Smith wants to sign a contract worth $9 million a season. The reason that Smith is available to get a new deal is because the Bengals decided in 2011 that they wouldn't pick up the final two option years of Smith's rookie contract.
At the time, the move made sense. Smith, the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft, had been a tremendous disappointment (I mean, he had only played in 13 of 32 career games after his first two NFL seasons). But in the past two years, Smith has worked his way into becoming one of the best right tackles in the league -- Pro Football Focus ranks him in a tie as the fourth-best tackle (left or right) for the 2012 season.
Making Smith's quest more interesting is that Detroit's Gosder Cherilus and New England's Sebastian Vollmer, who had strong seasons as well, also are free agents, meaning a team in need has more than one option in procuring a top-notch right tackle.
Besides, $9 million per season is significant cash for a right tackle (in fact, the Giants just signed left tackle Will Beatty for less than $8 million per year). But the Bengals also would like Smith to return and, as USA Today points out, Cincinnati has more than $40 million in salary-cap space in which it can play.
If the Bengals would have picked up that original option two years ago, the team would have owed Smith about $17 million. Which really isn't that much different than what Smith reportedly wants now.
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