The Cincinnati Bengals have officially listed former first-round draft pick Andre Smith as a "tackle/guard" on their offseason roster. This is not a surprise, because the Bengals have discussed a possible position switch with Smith for months.
But moving Smith to guard after just two seasons would be telling. In many ways, it would be an admission that the Bengals no longer believe Smith will be the franchise NFL tackle they expected.
Cincinnati invested the No. 6 overall pick -- usually a spot reserved for a left tackle -- and immediately moved Smith to the right side, despite paying him left tackle money. That was the first red flag.
A lengthy contract dispute, two foot injuries, inconsistent play and questions about Smith's work ethic all followed. It's been a disastrous two-year stretch for Smith, who has just five starts with the Bengals.
But perhaps a move inside could help jump-start Smith's career. He's never had the prototypical body for an offensive tackle. His strength is his girth, not his feet or ability to move quickly in space. Therefore, his weaknesses won't be exposed as much at guard.
Once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, the Bengals have to decide whether to extend Smith's contract for two additional years and pay him a $4.75 million bonus this offseason. Chances are, that won't happen.
But the Bengals are hoping to get the best out of Smith in 2011 -- even if it's from a position the team didn't expect two years ago.