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Agent: Blackstock in fold

According to his agent the Bengals have reached a verbal agreement with linebacker Darryl Blackstock, one of their nine players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents Friday at midnight.

Agent Brad Blank said Blackstock opted for a one-year minimum deal, capping a nice final month of the season that he impressed the coaches with some pass-rush ability.

Blackstock, a SAM linebacker, started three of the last four games at right end because of a spate of injuries and finished the season with 17 tackles. He also had five special-teams tackles.

The Bengals picked up Blackstock last season after the Cardinals didn't tender him an offer in restricted free agency.

Blank is encouraged by how Blackstock finished the season, considering he missed four games in the middle of the year after violating the performance enhancement policy.

The club has said Blackstock wasn't looking to do anything illegal when he purchased an over-the-counter supplement that got him suspended for four games without pay.

"That won't happen again," Blank said. "He's been able to move beyond it and now he's got a chance to show people he can play."

It's believed that four restricted free agents are going to become unrestricted once Friday hits because the Bengals won't tender them. Probably joining linebacker Corey Mays are running back DeDe Dorsey, safety John Busing and wide receiver Glenn Holt.

Also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, Ryan Fitzpatrick has surfaced as a possible candidate to replace Sage Rosenfels as Matt Schaub's backup quarterback in Houston.

After the Texans traded Rosenfels to Minnesota for a fourth-round pick, they are now faced with finding a guy to back up Schaub and it's not a light assignment. Schaub has been out of the lineup four times because of injury or illness during his two seasons in Houston.

Houston Chronicle NFL titan John McClain says the best candidates are Fitzpatrick, Detroits Dan Orlovsky and Chicago's Rex Grossman. But only because, McClain says, Chris Simms is ticketed back to Tennessee.

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