BENGALS DESIGNATE JUSTIN SMITH AS FRANCHISE PLAYER
The Bengals today designated DE Justin Smith as the team’s franchise player, under terms of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The franchise tag gives Smith the option to play for Cincinnati in 2007 for a salary equal to the average of the top five defensive ends in the NFL for the previous season (2006 in this case).
Smith is presently unsigned for 2007, and he will become an unrestricted free agent on March 2 if he does not reach a contract agreement with the Bengals prior to that date. The franchise-player designation means that the Bengals could retain Smith by matching any offer sheet he would sign from another team, and that if the Bengals declined to match a signed offer, the team signing Smith would be required to give the Bengals its first-round choices in the 2007 and 2008 NFL Drafts.
“We are pleased to designate Justin as our franchise player,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “He has been a consistent performer and worker. This move helps us keep our core players together, and it gives us an opportunity to continue negotiating for a longer-term contract with Justin.”
Smith has played all six of his NFL seasons with the Bengals. In 2006, he led the defensive line in tackles (110) for the fifth consecutive season, and he achieved his highest career ranking (second) in the team tackling standings. He had a 50-tackle lead over the second-place lineman (John Thornton). He ranked second on the team in sacks (7.5), and raised his career sacks total to 41.0, ranked fourth all-time on the Bengals. He also had a line-best 4 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. He has started 91 consecutive games.
“The franchise option is designed to help a team retain the rights to a top player,” said Troy Blackburn, Bengals director of business development. “The players’ union supports it because it guarantees that player a salary commensurate with what he has accomplished.”
The Collective Bargaining Agreement permits a new agreement between Smith and the Bengals to be reached at any time prior to July 15.