With Pro Football Talk reporting that Andre Smith’s side is seeking a deal that averages $9 million a year, the Bengals will have a very large decision to make. Considering though they were expecting to face something like this among the person they didn’t apply the franchise tag to, it is not surprising.

Pro Football Focus graded Smith as the top right tackle in the game last year and he played all but 10 of the 1,057 offensive snaps during the regular season for the first time in his four years. He is improving as a pass blocker and in some cases I would say has exceeded expectations. As many have pointed out, keeping both of your starting tackles under long-term contracts is going to do nothing but benefit the offense.

There are some who will argue he is not worth that money because he was injury plagued his first two years, what’s to say that doesn’t happen again? Others will say that is money more deserved for a left tackle and will argue if he is more valuable than cornerback Leon Hall, who has an $8.4 million cap number in 2013.

Here’s what I think.

Smith has established himself as one of the top right tackles in the game and there are two contracts from other teams that will impact the negotiations. Dallas’ Doug Free signed a four-year, $32 million contract as the Cowboys were about to move him to right tackle. Earlier this week, Will Beatty signed a five-year contract with the Giants that will average just under $8 million per season and included a signing bonus of $12.5 million and $19 million in guaranteed money.

In 2006, the Bengals did invest in the line by extending Willie Anderson and Levi Jones. The extension for Jones was a six-year extension worth just $40 million with guaranteed money of $16.3 million. When he signed the extension, Jones was a Bengals’ first-round pick going into his fifth year. Smith is a first-round pick who will be entering his fifth season.