Adams, Bengals talking

3-1-03, 9:15 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The agent for Sam Adams sent the Bengals a proposal Saturday that begins a process that could put one of the NFL's top run stoppers in the middle of their defense.

Angelo Wright, Adams' Oakland-based agent, said he faxed the offer to director of business development Troy Blackburn as the sides try to piece together the deal that couldn't get done last year on the eve of training camp when Eugene Parker was the tackle's agent.

"I think this could go rather quickly because there is interest in Sam and I think some team is going to step up in the next few days, so it could be a quick process," said Wright, who wouldn't say which other teams are involved.

A deal with Adams could have some aftershocks on the landscape of their roster when it comes to linebacker Takeo Spikes. The big

question is if they can afford both Adams and the $4.8 million tag on Spikes that gives the Bengals the right to match an offer for him. If they sign Adams, would they have to let Spikes go? They certainly wouldn't let him go until they found a replacement, one of Bengals founder Paul Brown's mottos.

Although Spikes is reportedly headed to Buffalo Monday for a visit, it's doubtful the Bills would tender Spikes an offer sheet so early in free agency as long as the Bengals have the right to match.

But the Bengals have been stalking a possible successor in Eagles outside linebacker Shawn Barber, a solid cover backer who is also coming off the second 100-tackle season of his career. It's believed Barber is headed here for a visit this week, but he may have a deal long before then. He's passing through St. Louis and Kansas City this weekend,, and if the numbers are right, he won't keep until Cincinnati.

Bengals starting free safety Cory Hall also might not make it back. Peter Schaffer, Hall's agent,, said Saturday night that his client has been in Houston this weekend, and is now headed to Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans.

"He also wants to talk to Cincinnati. He's interested in the Bengals," Schaffer said. "But if he gets the number out there on one of his visits, he's taking it."

The Bengals begin entertaining their free agents Sunday night, but head coach Marvin Lewis has said his goal on each visit is to get a contract before the player leaves.

With the loss of Lorenzo Neal, the Bengals may turn their attention to fullbacks. Even before Neal signed with the Chargers Friday, the Bengals contacted the agent for Oakland fullback Jon Ritchie.

"The Raiders would like to keep him, but we'll see what happens," said agent Stephen Baker.

On Friday, the Bengals claimed off waivers from the Colts 6-2, 207-pound safety Brian Leigib. As a first-year player out of Central Michigan, he played in 15 games last season and tied for fourth on special teams tackles with 12, and added nine more on defense.

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