By GEOFF HOBSON
After reviewing responses from the Bengals, right tackle Willie Anderson's agent sounded encouraged today as he made plans to run some more numbers by the club on Monday.
"We've made great progress and I plan to keep working at it," Terry Bolar said. "It's just with one year left on his contract, we don't want to rush into anything or get pressured into signing something. I think the Bengals have been very positive. Willie isn't being greedy. We just want to make sure we get the proper value for a player of his caliber taking into consideration next year's market."
Indications are the sides may be headed into a tinkering phase on the way to a deal. The Bengals believe the six-year extension they've offered Anderson is the highest deal ever for an NFL offensive lineman. It's probably slightly more than the $5 million per year right tackle Jon Runyan signed as a free agent in Philadelphia a few months ago.
But Bolar said the annual average isn't that high because it's really a seven-year deal since the Bengals aren't tearing up the 2000 contract. The Bengals view the new money in the next six years as the highest ever for a lineman.
"We recognize that Willie is important enough to the team that we've approached him a year ahead of (free agency) and given him an offer we feel makes him the highest paid lineman in the league," said Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn. "It's up to Willie to decide if he wants to go forward knowing his future is secure or wait until the end of the season and take his chances."
If Anderson decides to wait and not sign, the Bengals have indicated they'll put the money toward signing running back Corey Dillon and veteran free agents, primarily cornerbacks.
The Runyan deal has been a measuring stick, particularly what is made in the first year. Runyan got $6 million to sign, a $3.5 million roster bonus and a $500,000 salary. The Bengals figure to keep Anderson's salary at $1 million for this season while giving him a bigger signing bonus, but they're unlikely to give him $10 million total in the first year.
"Every team has a different salary cap situation," Blackburn said. "We've constructed a contract that fits in with the salary cap of the Cincinnati Bengals for this season and for the next few seasons. But if you look at the total deal, it's better than Runyan's."