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Rudi on brink of 'Corey'-like deal

Posted Mar 15, 2005


Updated: 3-15-05, 12:10 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON


Johnson: Deal looms (Bengals photo)
The agent for Bengals running back Rudi Johnson said Tuesday night he's closing in on a contract that is believed to keep his client in Cincinnati through 2009. Peter Schaffer didn't say the deal was done but said, "We've made substantial progress. We're very optimistic."

But someone told somebody something because his client confirmed the deal to ESPN.com early Wednesday.

"I'm glad we got it over," Johnson told ESPN.com. "I didn't want to be on one-year contracts. Now I know where I'm going to be for the next five years. I'm glad this finally came true."

Schaffer is fond of quashing reports of a deal by saying, "There's no press conference yet." But on Tuesday night, he said, "I'll know first thing in the morning," when there now looks to be a Wednesday news conference at Paul Brown Stadium.

If you simply go by the fact that the two sides were still working on a multi-year deal deep into Tuesday night, they should have beat the blackout deadline of 4 p.m. Wednesday. The hours spent negotiating certainly pointed to something big as the Bengals worked overtime to lock up their bell cow back. ESPN.com reported the deal at $26 million, much in the neighborhood of what Dillon signed on May 11, 2001 after two Pro Bowl seasons and four 1,000-yard years.

Schaffer, who kept telling Bengals.com the deal wasn't done, said the sides labored since the weekend, and he wouldn't comment Tuesday on the snag late Monday that prevented an agreement. But he did say the sides had talked all day. On Monday night, Schaffer said the sides talked all weekend and all day Monday. But he said on Monday night he wasn't sure it was going to be enough.

"We've talked. We've talked a lot and we'll probably talk again," Schaffer said Monday night. "But an impasse has developed and with the deadline almost only 24 hours away, I don't know if the chasm can be overcome."

If the two sides can't reach a multi-year deal by Wednesday at 4 p.m., a four-month negotiating blackout begins. Johnson has already signed his one-year, $6.3 million franchise player tender, indicating he'll play and report on time for all mandatory activities.

The talks come against the backdrop of reports that backup running back Chris Perry has undergone his second sports hernia surgery, but it is expected he'll be ready by June 1 and for the June voluntary camps and mandatory minicamp.

"Difference in value"
When asked if the snag involves up-front money, annual average, or length of the contract, Schaffer said, "It's too complicated to narrow down like that. It's over a difference of opinion. We've got a difference in value."

The debate, no doubt, continues to focus on Johnson's worth in the context of the league's top backs.

In his 21 NFL starts, Johnson has gained 2,206 yards, which is 21 more starts than Oakland's Lamont Jordan got before signing a recent five-year, $27.5 million deal. Johnson is coming off his first 1,000-yard season, a Bengals franchise-record 1,454, and his first Pro Bowl alternate berth.

The top paid running backs, who have all had multiple 1,000-yard or Pro Bowl seasons, have numbers like San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson ($64 million over eight years with a $19 million bonus), and Washington's Clinton Portis (eight years, $50 million with a $14 million bonus). The Chiefs' Priest Holmes is at about $7 million per year (seven for $48 million) and the Jets' Curtis Martin is at about $6 million per year at eight for $46 million.

Because the collective bargaining agreement expires in a couple of years, clubs can't pro-rate bonuses for more than five years in current contracts, which means the Bengals are probably looking at a four- or five-year deal with Johnson.

Also Monday, the Bengals finalized the three-year, $6 million deal for former Dolphins defensive lineman Bryan Robinson.

The agent for Bengals free-agent defensive lineman Carl Powell, Jerrold Colton, hasn't changed his plans in the wake of the Robinson signing, indicating Monday he is exploring options with the Bengals, as well as other clubs.

Safety Anthony Mitchell's agent is optimistic his client is going to re-sign with the Bengals, but says they are still working on the deal's length.

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