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Mar 03

Andre Smith 9 Million Dollar Man?

We saw this little tidbit yesterday by Pro Football Talk concerning Bengals Right Tackle Andre Smith:

$9 million is a pretty big number especially when you consider that Smith is only going to play the RT position in Cincinnati and seems to have limited upside as a LT. He would earn more than any other right tackle in the NFL and by a significant margin. The highest paid RT I have listed on the site is the Giants David Diehl, at $8.937 million per year, but Diehl was signed to play left tackle and has been moved all over the line. Doug Free at $8 million a season is also a converted player signed when seeking jobs as a  left tackle. The true high end of the market is the Titans David Stewart at just under $6.15 million a year.

A deal worth $9 million a year would place Smith as the 7th highest paid overall tackle in the NFL. The increase over the Stewart deal would represent a 46% jump, a ridiculously high jump for any team, let alone a team that usually does not spend top dollars on players. The facts are that the league values left and right tackles completely differently and if Smith is your right tackle that has to be a consideration in slotting his pay.

Now while I do think that there needs to be a market correction for left and right tackles as the left side is paid too high and the right side too low considering the fact that defenses use more varied fronts and bring premier pass rushers from both sides, but the market is what it is and I cant see the Bengals being the ones to upset the apple cart.

Would Smith’s play even warrant such a salary?  Probably not. The most important factor for a tackle is their pass blocking, since they are likely in pass protection 65% of the time compared to just 35% run blocks. I keep my own “pass block efficiency” stats that are an offshoot of the Pro Football Focus raw data sets. Essentially it determines how many added pass play failures occurred because of a sack or pressure allowed by a player. Ill expand on that in a post in the coming months but Smith last season ranked 27th among all tackles increasing play failure by 4.5%. The league average was 5.37% so he is above average but not significantly above average. He ranked 8th among right tackles.

Smith is a better run blocker than pass protector, but that isn’t what gets you elite level salary in the NFL. In my offensive line rankings where I calculate yards before contact allowed the Bengals ranked 16th at 1.71 YBC. Now clearly that takes the whole line into account but you would think a dominant run blocker would up that ranking. Football Outsiders collection of data from the NFL gamebooks ranked the Bengals 12th and 19th in the league in plays run either off right tackle and right end.

Smith is coming off a rookie deal that paid him around $6.5 million a year. There are plenty of questions about his work ethic though he has played well the last two seasons. He is going to get a raise off his rookie deal but more likely in the $7.5 to $8 million dollar range and even that may be too high. Smith wisely hired Ben Dogra to represent him this time around rather than Alvin Keels who negotiated his rookie contract which led to a giant holdout, but getting $9 million is going to be quite the difficult task even for a seasoned agent like Dogra.