With the Bengals refusing to do a slotted deal for the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft, tackle Andre Smith and agent Alvin Keels tried their best to cover up the fact that they failed to fit the contract between the deals given to Mark Sanchez and No. 5 and Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7 by successfully obtaining a shorter deal.
Per the Cincinnati Enquirer, Smith signed a four-year deal with $21 million guaranteed and a maximum value of $26 million.
But it really isn’t a shorter deal. As one league source said, “Every six-year deal is a four-year deal with a club option for the last two years.”
If the Bengals choose to pick up the last two years, the contract will have a base value of $42 million and a maximum package of $50 million. Per ESPN, Smith would pick up another $8.5 million guaranteed for the extra two years.
So how does Smith’s deal measure up to the slot? The three bases for the comparison of first-round contracts are the guaranteed money, the base value, and the maximum package.
Sanchez’s guarantee (including one-time “log” incentive) is $28 million. Heyward-Bey’s is $23.5 million. Smith falls south of both at $21 million. (That said, his average guaranteed money per year is $5.25 million, which fits in the gap between Sanchez and Heyward-Bey.)
Then again, a league source tells us that Smith will make $21.5 million over the first three years, making the guaranteed money not that jaw-dropping.
Sanchez’s base value is $47 million over five years (i.e., $9.4 million per year). Heyward-Bey’s contract has a base value of $38.25 million. It’s unclear whether the $26 million over four years is the base value or the maximum value of Smith’s deal. If it’s the base value, the $6.5 million annual average falls well below the average annual base value of Heyward-Bey’s deal, which is $7.65 million.
Smith’s guaranteed money matches the amount guaranteed a year ago to sixth overall pick Vernon Gholston on a five-year deal. The base value of Gholston’s contract was $32.5 million, which matches the $6.5 million annual average Smith received.
So, basically, Smith got a six-year version of Gholston’s deal. And the Bengals were able to avoid the slotting process, as they vowed to do.
Smith and Keels saved some face via the appereance of a four-year deal. But if Smith turns out to be a great player, it won’t be a four-year deal — it’ll be a six-year deal and the two extra years that kick in four years from now will pale in comparison to the first two years of a long-term deal that Smith could have gotten on the open market.
And we’re certain that this deal could have been done weeks ago, allowing Smith more of an opportunity to become a great player. In the end, Smith and Keels caved, and now Smith faces an uphill climb to fulfill his potential.