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Signing Andre Smith would free up Bengals in draft

By Larry Hartstein | Senior Analyst

Right tackle Andre Smith could be close to re-signing with the Bengals. (USATSI)

The Bengals need help at safety and running back. They can better focus on those draft needs if they sign free-agent right tackle Andre Smith in the next couple of days.

Coach Marvin Lewis sounds optimistic about doing just that, despite the sides being far apart recently.

"I'm hopeful we can get a solution prior to (Thursday's) draft. I know Andre would like to get it done," Lewis said Tuesday, via Bengals.com. "I think he'd feel better about things so he doesn't get lost without a chair."

Added Lewis: "The sun is emerging, maybe."

The sixth overall pick in 2009, Smith is coming off two solid seasons. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked him in a tie as the fourth-best tackle, left or right.

Smith, 26, reportedly was seeking $9 million annually. It was always doubtful Cincinnati would pay him that much, so the new sunny tone could indicate Smith softened his demands.

Seven of eight CBSSports.com draft experts have the Bengals taking a safety or running back with the 21st pick. Cincinnati has three of the first 53 selections.

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