Updated: 3-19-08, 12:25 p.m.
One guy who figures to report for Monday's start of the offseason workouts is the Bengals franchise player, offensive lineman Stacy Andrews. Andrews paved the way Wednesday when he signed his one-year tender of $7.5 million, the average '07 salary of the NFL's top five paid offensive lineman.
But the Bengals are still talking to agent Rich Moran in an effort to secure a long-term deal that would lessen the salary cap hit in 2008. The sides have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal.
"We're happy Stacy is signed in advance of our offseason work," said head coach Marvin Lewis in a news release. "This does not preclude our continuing to talk to Stacy and his representatives about reaching a longer-term agreement."
Except for a few practices, the last time Bengals running back Chris Perry was on the field was 478 days ago, when he not only broke, but dislocated his ankle against the Browns in the Nov. 26, 2006 shutout.
Another step in the road back takes place next Monday, when he says he's been told he'll be able to participate in the Bengals offseason program that begins then.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Perry said this is the best he's felt, literally, in years. After stepping up his racquetball and boxing regimens that he's turned to in the rehab, Perry is confident that he can follow through on the plan that puts him on the field for spring practices in early May.
"I don't want to say what I can do, or what I can bring to the table, or anything like that," Perry said. "I just want to go out and do it and see what happens. I just want to showcase it."
He suffered a devastating injury for a running back. His game is cutting and acceleration and the ankle is everything. While he thinks it's going to be OK, nobody knows until he gets on the field.
"It doesn't feel too different than it did before," Perry said. "I feel good. The thing now is to try and get into game shape. I think the Bengals did the right thing last year when they (put me on injured reserve in the middle of the season) and didn't rush me back. That was a gracious thing to do. I just wasn't ready and they've let me work back."
One thing is for sure. He has shelved everything for the rehab. He loves to travel—one offseason he went to Europe—but he didn't do go anywhere this year. He had hoped to get a European trip together for children to expose them to other cultures, but that project, like everything else, has been put on hold.
"I've just been focusing on getting healthy," Perry said. "It's really the only thing I've been thinking about."
His litany of NFL injuries are almost beyond belief, starting with the sports hernia that wiped out all but two games of his rookie year and the ankle that has eliminated the last 21 games of his third and fourth seasons.
Now in Year Five, with the buzz about Kenny Watson and Rudi Johnson and DeDe Dorsey, he says he doesn't feel like the forgotten man. If he comes back close to his '05 form—4.6 yards per 61 rushes—he solves a lot of problems.
"I haven't really thought about it," he said about being forgotten. "I can't worry about that. I'm just trying to get better.
"The one thing I do miss is making a difference; making an impact in the game. That's what I'm trying to get back to."
Most observers expect the deal to go through, which basically takes the Bengals out of any more significant deals. The next step appears to see what timetable injured players like Chris Perry are on as the club heads into the draft.
Free-agent losses: RE Justin Smith (49ers), FS Madieu Williams (Vikings), LB Landon Johnson (Panthers), WR Tab Perry (Dolphins).
Free-agent additions: DE Antwan Odom (Titans), TE Ben Utecht (Colts, deal pending), LB Darryl Blackstock (Cardinals), LB Brandon Johnson (Cardinals, deal pending).
The Bengals look to replace Smith (111 NFL games) with Odom (52), Williams (49) with Marvin White (15), and Johnson (64) with Dhani Jones (109).
The Bengals had hoped to sign Tab Perry for a lower deal than the restricted free agent tender of $927,000 that the Bengals didn't tender. Perry wouldn't delve into specifics of the deal after he agreed this week, but he said he balked on only one thing in the Bengals offer.
"The Dolphins showed more confidence and faith in my hip," Perry said. "That's really what it came down to."
The Bengals feared giving Perry the tender after he played just four games the past two seasons following a 2006 hip injury.
The Bengals have spent nearly all of the $12 million they earmarked for free agency on top of Stacy Andrews' $7.5 million franchise tag. They made phone calls to guys like safety Eugene Williams and center Justin Hartwig, but only to get the temperature before turning to critical decisions on their own team. At running back alone they have to gauge the health of Perry, as well as Rudi Johnson and Kenny Irons.
Plus, the Bengals are closely monitoring the returns of middle linebackers Ahmad Brooks (torn groin) and Odell Thurman (two-year suspension). Coming into the spring the duo have combined to play 30 NFL games.
But when asked where he'll be in September, Johnson said it's up to the man upstairs. Except the men upstairs for the Bengals, president Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis, have continued to say whenever asked that Johnson is going nowhere and won't be traded.
He said in response to the grass not being greener on the other side, "If I move, I've got my water hose and I've got my seeds. I'm going to make it green."
Johnson, who made the rounds at the Super Bowl unsuccessfuly trying to drum up a trade, also took his gig to ESPN and FOX radio on Tuesday. He told FOX that the Bengals feel his style of play is too flamboyant and that Lewis wants him to change.
"So, it is what it is. I love Cincinnati, man, I love it to death," Johnson said. "They have been very good to me and I've been good to them, but I think it's time for change."
But all indications are the Bengals don't agree and have no plans to trade him.