Bengals Making a Mistake with Take-It-or-Leave-It Treatment of Andre Smith

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2013

The Bengals and Andre Smith are still engaged in a stare-down over a new contract.
The Bengals and Andre Smith are still engaged in a stare-down over a new contract.Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part, the Cincinnati Bengals have handled the situation surrounding free agent right tackle Andre Smith almost perfectly. 

Until now. 

Smith and the Bengals have yet to agree to terms on a new contract, but the perceived thought of many was Smith would stick around considering the fact he has yet to even make a visit to another team since the beginning of free agency. 

Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer recently reported that the two sides are "not close" to a new deal. Rotoworld followed up with some analysis of its own, speculating that the Bengals have presented Smith with a "take it or leave it" type offer:

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Sunday the sides are "not close" to a new deal. Cincinnati's offer is clearly of the "take it or leave it" variety, but the problem for Smith is that he hasn't so much as made a visit since the start of free agency. The longer he waits, the less he may end up settling for in the Queen City.

In most cases this type of ultimatum would make sense. However, as Rotoworld pointed out, this type of attitude could allow Smith to sign with another team. Peter King of SI agrees:

I think the agents for Andre Smith are making it very clear to the Bengals, and to the rest of the league: The offer Cincinnati has on the table for Smith stinks (in the mind of agent and player), and the door is open for some team to come in and steal him. Listening, Arizona?

Of course, the offer on the table may "stink" for Smith and his agent considering they are reportedly looking for about $9 million per year (per ProFootballTalk). 

Perhaps the offer on the table may not "stink" at all if viewed with any fraction of realism. Smith, who finally put together a solid season in a contract year while battling injury and weight issues each year prior, is asking for darn near top left tackle money, millions above what the top right tackles make. 

Still, the Bengals would be hard-pressed to find a better right tackle in free agency or the draft. Smith graded out as the best right tackle in football last season according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), albeit in a contract year. 

What Smith and his agent have to realize is that making something work with Cincinnati may be the only way to go. Other franchises are obviously afraid of the red flags swirling around him, or another team would have swooped in by now. 

Maybe Smith's agent is what "stinks." After all, his agent Ben Dogra threw Smith on the back burner for well over a week after free agency kicked off in order to find a mega-deal for left tackle Chris Long. Had Dogra thrown his efforts at getting Smith a deal, perhaps we wouldn't even be in this situation. 

Cincinnati has all the leverage as of now, but the take-it-or-leave-it treatment won't work for long. If and when other teams begin to show interest, the power and leverage slides back the other way. 

The Bengals can't afford to lose Smith, which it eventually will if another team decides to take a risk. and the attitude in the front office is truly take-it-or-leave-it. 

If the Bengals lose Smith, it's possible the options at No. 21 overall in the upcoming draft suddenly shrink drastically. That is, unless the coaching staff for some reason believes Anthony Collins has what it takes to be a full-time starter. 

For now, Cincinnati has to play ball. Using a take-it-or-leave-it attitude isn't the way to treat one of the team's better players, lack of consistency or not. We obviously don't know all the details of the negotiations behind the closed doors, but the team has to attempt to meet Smith and his agent halfway if it hasn't already. 

Cincinnati has more than enough ammunition to fend off other suitors for Smith if push comes to shove. The real issue is, if the Bengals are worried about Smith's effort when paying him, the organization also has to worry about his effort after making him feel shunned with a take-it-or-leave-it deal. 

It's hard to think Smith will be anywhere else besides Cincinnati for the next few years, but the Bengals could be playing with fire. Take it or leave it sends a bad sign to Smith in more ways than one. 

If Cincinnati is smart, it will come back to the table if it has truly slapped an offer down and walked away. An incentive-laden contract with massive money obtainable through performance is not too much to ask to keep Smith around. 


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