Andre Smith signs with Bengals

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 four-year deal includes $21 million guaranteed. The team has
an option after the 2010 season that would turn it into a six-year
deal that includes $29.5 million guaranteed. Heyward-Bey got a
five-year deal with $23.5 million guaranteed from the Raiders.
Smith participated in the afternoon practice, doing some drills
with other linemen during the portion of the workout open to the
media.
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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