Bengals play it smart with Andre Smith

The Cincinnati Bengals' re-signing of right tackle Andre Smith shouldn't get lost in what has been another strong draft for the franchise. How the Bengals got their way in this deal shouldn't be overlooked as well.

Smith told reporters that both sides won because he's back in Cincinnati. But the Bengals are the big winners. They brought back their top free agent on offense and they did it on their terms even though it took longer than everyone expected.

Cincinnati signed Smith to a three-year, $18 million deal Friday night, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The $6 million per-season average is much less than the reported $9 million Smith had been seeking. It's also slightly less than what two other right tackles received this offseason: the Colts' Gosder Cherilus ($6.9 million average) and the Vikings' Phil Loadholt ($6.25 million).

It's even more of a bargain when you consider Smith was graded as the best right tackle in the NFL last season. So, why weren't teams lined up for Smith this year? It became obvious that teams were leery of giving big money to Smith, who struggled early in his career and played better as it got closer to his contract year. It was legitimate for teams to ask whether Smith would be just as motivated after he got a new contract.

This is where the Bengals were smart again with Smith. Instead of giving him a longer-term contract (which would have required more guaranteed money), the Bengals signed him to a three-year deal. By keeping it shorter, the Bengals know Smith will have to play his best if he wants to get that $9 million per-year average on his next contract, when he'll be 29.

By Smith signing before the Bengals made their first pick in the second round, one could speculate that Smith agreed to a deal because he was concerned about the Bengals drafting his replacement. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said the deal finally got done because Smith got more involved in negotiations this past week.

"Andre has for the last week taken the bull by the horns," Lewis told the team's official website. "I think he's grown up a little bit. He thinks he's a smart businessman who knows what's going on and in some ways he had to be educated about it. But he had to take control and I think he grew into that, and that's a good thing."

To be clear, Smith grew into a role. His weight apparently remained the same.

"He came back the way he was supposed to look like when he showed up. That's what he's supposed to do," Lewis said. "He's been working his butt off and he's worked some of his butt off."