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Keels Responds To Claims Of Fire-And-Rehire Arrangement With Andre Smith

In the wake of the news that Bengals tackle Andre Smith has fired agent Rick Smith and is poised to rehire Alvin Keels, whom Andre Smith fired several weeks before the draft, multiple league sources tell us that the firing and rehiring of Keels was planned. Keels went on the record Tuesday night to dispute this allegation. “I haven’t been rehired yet,” Keels told us via e-mail. “Honestly, I might not get him back. If I do get him back it definitely wasn’t planned that he fire then rehire me.” In 2005, Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman dropped agent Gary Wichard shortly after the draft and then hired Carl and Kevin Poston. At the time, the Poston brothers arguably were the most notorious agents in the business, and some teams were believed to be reluctant to draft or sign their clients. And so the theory was that Wichard was set up by Merriman, who knew all along that he’d eventually land with the Postons, after he was drafted. The difference between the Merriman case and the present case is that Merriman was at no point represented by the Postons before the draft. The theory here is that, by firing Keels and hiring the more established Rick Smith of Priority Sports, Andre Smith proved to the teams interested in selecting him that the former Alabama standout was finally beginning to “get it.” Keels disagrees. “I don’t think Andre terminating me helped his draft stock at all,” Keels said. “I have maintained the stance that an agent doesn’t play much in getting a player drafted outside of offering pre-draft advice and I believe the Bengals would say the same thing. At the time Andre fired me there wasn’t much advice to give outside of what to wear for the cameras on draft day.” We don’t necessarily agree. Though Keels doesn’t have the same kind of negative reputation that the Postons endured four years ago, certain agents can cause a team to avoid a given player. Moreover, there’s a chance that Andre Smith was being told by one or more other agents that he needed to fire Keels in order to persuade teams that Andre Smith acknowledged the errors that were made during the pre-draft preparations, including the bizarrely stupid decision to run a 40-yard dash while not wearing a shirt. And there’s a chance that Andre Smith still wanted to deal with Keels. And so there’s a chance that Keels and Smith agreed to the fire-and-rehire scenario. Again, Keels denies it. But other sources say otherwise.