By PJ Combs
In a conversation today with agent Terry Bolar, who represents right tackle Willie Anderson, Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn learned that both Bolar and Anderson plan to travel to Cincinnati tonight and visit Spinney Field tomorrow.
There was no new proposal by either side placed on the table today, but the two sides will meet in the morning to work toward a long-term deal for Anderson, who is entering the final year of five-year contract.
"We're going to sit down tomorrow and go over things," Blackburn said. "We'll address the key issues they have and the key issues we have. We should have a pretty good sense after tomorrow's meeting if we're likely to get something worked out or if we're likely to look at other alternatives."
Blackburn feels the team has submitted a solid offer for a six-year extension that would put Anderson among the highest-paid offensive linemen in the league. The Bengals hope to sign Anderson by June 1 in order to determine where they stand with their 2000 salary cap. That is the date that NFL teams can release players and spread those players' remaining signing-bonus cap counts over this year and next year instead of absorbing those counts in their entireties this year. Several desirable NFL veterans are likely to become free agents. And if Anderson doesn't sign by then, the team may opt to use some of the money they offered to him to sign one or more of those free agents.
Bolar has expressed concern that signing the six-year extension to Anderson's existing contract rather than replacing that contract with a new one really makes the team's offer a less attractive seven-year deal through 2006 instead of an attractive six-year deal through 2005. Blackburn, however, says that either way you look at it, the Bengals' offer would give Anderson one of the NFL's largest pacts for an offensive lineman.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that the fact they are coming in to see us is a positive sign we're getting closer," Blackburn said. "But we'll have to wait and see."