Bengals rookie offensive tackle Andre Smith is in Cincinnati, where his agent, Alvin Keels, is meeting with Bengals management to iron out a contract that could get the sixth overall draft pick on the field for Sunday’s practice, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Smith has missed a full month of training camp and three preseason games as contract negotiations repeatedly stalled.
With the start of the regular season two weeks away and the Bengals having to finalize their 53-man roster next weekend, there is an impetus to get a deal done now.
The sides have made major progress on a contract said to give Smith significant earning potential should he reach certain escalators to trigger guaranteed money. The structure of the contract is supposed to be complicated but includes options and escalators in which Smith could earn more than the five-year, $32 million contract signed by Jets linebacker Vernon Gholston, who was the sixth overall pick in 2008.
The actual terms and length of the deal is not known but the sides previously had discussed terms based on a five-year contract.
Smith was projected to be Cincinnati’s starting right tackle but with him missing so much time, his place in the starting lineup could be delayed. The Bengals have a preseason game against Indianapolis on Thursday before opening the season at home against Denver on Sept. 13. Cincinnati could use a two-week roster exemption for Smith so he could get in shape and get as up to speed as possible before having to create a roster spot for him by getting rid of a player.