Already loaded with 10 picks in this weekend’s draft, the Cincinnati Bengals added yet another player Friday with the re-signing of free agent right tackle Andre Smith.
“Obviously the biggest thing we can be happy about today is the signing of Andre earlier this afternoon,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said just minutes after the team had selected North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard with the fifth pick in the second round.
“I didn’t want to leave. I’m happy,” Smith said after signing a three-year contract worth a reported $18 million. “It’s a process. You’re going to be back and forth. It’s like a slug match. There were some great blows being thrown, but we came up victorious because I’m back here in Cincinnati.”
Drafted in the first round with the sixth overall pick in 2009, Smith battled injuries and inconsistency his first two seasons, making just five starts. But he started 14 games in 2011 and all 16 in 2012, and his power blocking last season helped running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis lead the NFL in third-down-and-one rushing conversions (14) while rushing for a career-high 1,094 yards as the Bengals averaged 168.2 rushing yards per game.
“The first two years were a little tough,” Smith said. “But the last two years have been tremendous, with us going to the playoffs the last two seasons, building toward making our Super Bowl run, like I know we can.
“The last two years I have thoroughly enjoyed playing football,” he added. “I think it’s just me buying into Marvin’s system and doing everything the right way and being a pro, being on time, just all the small things that help you become a great player.”
Ranked by many as the top tackle available in free agency, Smith said he was caught off guard by the way the tackle market played out in free agency.
“I was very surprised by that,” Smith said. “There were reports around 9 million and then 10 million, and I thought, ‘Wow, maybe I can get this.’ But then the market came down. It’s a process. I’m just glad to be here.”