Bengals Agree To Terms With Top Pick Smith

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Offensive tackle Andre Smith signed a contract Sunday with the Cincinnati Bengals, ending an impasse that dragged on a month into the preseason.

The Bengals originally planned to have Smith start at right tackle, but he has missed all three preseason games. He was in Cincinnati and agreed to the deal shortly before the start of a late afternoon practice.

"He has a lot of work to do, but he knows the challenge ahead of him to make an impact on our team as soon as possible," coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement released as practice began.

Smith, the sixth overall pick, was the highest unsigned NFL pick with one week left in the preseason. The Bengals had insisted on paying him less than a player taken later in the draft, Oakland's Darrius Heyward-Bey, leading to the impasse.

Smith's contract leaves Michael Crabtree, drafted by San Francisco with the 10th overall pick, as the only first-round selection yet to sign.

The team gave Smith's bed to another player during training camp in Georgetown, Ky. HBO's "Hard Knocks" episode last Wednesday showed teammates mocking Smith's weight during the team's annual rookie skits.

Prolonged holdouts are commonplace in Cincinnati. Last year, linebacker Keith Rivers missed nine days of camp and was one of the last two first-round picks to come to terms.

The Bengals' offensive line was one of their top priorities in the offseason. The offense finished last in the league in 2008 in large part because of the line's ineffectiveness. Quarterback Carson Palmer missed a dozen games because he tore a ligament and tendon in his throwing elbow when he got hit while passing.

Only right guard Bobbie Williams returns in the same spot this year. The Bengals let their two tackles leave and drafted Smith, whose holdout forced them to revamp their plans. Anthony Collins has played right tackle in Smith's absence.

The Bengals conclude the preseason on Thursday night against Indianapolis, then open the season at home against the Denver Broncos. Lewis said Smith's availability for the final preseason game "will be evaluated as we go through the week."


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