Everyone thought that the biggest headlines from the Bengals during the draft would occur on Thursday with the first-round selection of Tyler Eifert. Friday’s developments trumped that.

As the second day of the draft got set to begin, the move that everyone had been hoping for since the start of free agency finally happened as offensive tackle Andre Smith signed a three-year deal worth $18 million.

The signing also was a relief for coach Marvin Lewis, who had been optimistic since free agency started that they would retain Smith. Of the 23 unrestricted free agents the Bengals had in early March, they have re-signed 14 and lost six.

“I knew what our intentions were and I knew what his intentions were. At some point they were going to come together. He wanted to be here,” Lewis said. “There was a consistent theme from Andre and (agent) Ben Dogra and us – we want you back here, let’s get it done. Andre we want you back but you are probably going to have to go into free agency first and then go from there. Let’s see how other players around you the level of compensation they received and then let’s get something that both sides are happy with.

“It’s a great job by everyone getting it done. They’ve been grinding, sometimes in silence but they got it done. Sometimes the silence was deafening.”

At the start of free agency, there was speculation that Smith could earn $9 million a season, but the offensive tackle market said otherwise. As recently as last Friday, Smith thought that a deal was soon at hand. It took a week longer before it actually got done and he was back in the locker room at Paul Brown Stadium.

“What changed for me was that I felt like it was time,” Smith said. “Why continue to play around? Why wait? I just felt like it was time. Why procrastinate? So that was pretty much it. The offer changed, but I felt like it was time. Let’s get back to business; Bengal football.”

With the deal averaging $6 million per year, that is around the same average as left tackle Andrew Whitworth, whose average is $6.08 million. When it comes to right tackles, Smith’s average is currently higher than what New England’s Sebastian Vollmer ($4.25 million but if all the incentives are hit, it could rise to $6.75 million) but somewhat in the ballpark of what Indianapolis’ Gosder Cherilus ($6.9 million) and Minnesota’s Phil Loadholt ($6.25 million).

With Smith being re-signed, the entire starting group on offense has been retained.