Beckett looks to re-sign

3-24-04, 5:25 a.m. Updated:
3-24-04, 12:30 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals finished off a deal

with one of their own starters Wednesday in safety Rogers Beckett, and no doubt plan to team him
with free-agent pickup Kim Herring in the starting lineup. Agent Bus Cook said that Beckett had agreed to return, but the club won't comment until it gets all the paperwork.

The Bengals apparently began looking to their own roster after not being able to reel in their three big fish in free agency, defensive tackle Warren Sapp (Raiders), and cornerbacks Troy Vincent (Bills) and Bobby Taylor (Seahawks). After not showing any interest in re-signing safety Mark Roman, a league source said the Bengals apparently got into the discussions Monday before Roman went to Green Bay.

That would suggest the Bengals have moved to the next option, which is filling some holes with a starter or two and then waiting to see what happens after June 1 when a veteran such as Broncos defensive tackle Darryl Gardener is expected to get cut.

Feeling they only had room under their salary cap to sign one big money player in free agency, the Bengals opted more for role players and low-ranged priced starters after last season when they signed four defensive starters totally nearing $13 million in bonuses.

The prime example is wide receiver Patrick Johnson, a seven-year veteran who reported to his fourth team in four years Monday excited that this is finally his chance in a what-might-have-been career.

The Bengals may be trying to finish off a deal

with one of their own starters in safety Rogers Beckett as they try to find a player to team with free-agent pickup Kim Herring in the starting lineup.

The Bengals apparently began looking to their own roster after not being able to reel in their three big fish in free agency, defensive tackle Warren Sapp (Raiders), and cornerbacks Troy Vincent (Bills) and Bobby Taylor (Seahawks). After not showing any interest in re-signing safety Mark Roman, a league source said the Bengals apparently got into the discussions Monday before Roman went to Green Bay.

That would suggest the Bengals have moved to the next option, which is filling some holes with a starter or two and then waiting to see what happens after June 1 when a veteran such as Broncos defensive tackle Darryl Gardener is expected to get cut.

Feeling they only had room under their salary cap to sign one big money player in free agency, the Bengals opted more for role players and low-ranged priced starters after last season when they signed four defensive starters totally nearing $13 million in bonuses.

The prime example is wide receiver Patrick Johnson, a seven-year veteran who reported to his fourth team in four years Monday excited that this is finally his chance in a what-might-have-been career.

Johnson, a second-round draft pick of the Ravens, figures he came within inches of being the MVP in Super Bowl XXXV when Baltimore drilled the Giants three years ago. The 5-10, 195-pound speedster clearly beat the New York secondary twice early in the game for what would have been long touchdown catches. But the ball didn't get there from quarterback Trent Dilfer.

"Either I would have been the MVP or Dilfer would have been the MVP," Johnson said. "All I'm saying is the balls didn't get completed. Imagine how things would have been differently for me. I know I wouldn't be working on my fourth team in four years. It's all about opportunity."

People are grumbling about the Bengals slipping back into their old ways after the free-agent failures. But Johnson, 27, is the kind of guy veteran head coach Marvin Lewis covets and a guy they probably never would have touched before Lewis because of his height. But he has those qualities Lewis thinks make up winning teams.

First, Lewis knows Johnson after watching him every day in practice for four years in Baltimore. He's been on playoff teams, he's fast, cares about special teams, and he's a team player. For Johnson, lost in labels and perceptions, he comes to a team also looking to change the way people look at it.

It's that fit he's been seeking.

"In free agency, it's all about situations," Johnson said. "I went from starting opposite a Hall-of-Famer in Jimmy Smith (in 2002) in Jacksonville, to being the third or fourth guy in Washington last year. I caught 15 balls last year, but I think I had only 19 attempts. You've got to go where people know you and what you can do, and where you can get a chance to show what you can do."

Johnson knows he comes in behind a Pro Bowler in Chad Johnson, a first-round pick in Peter Warrick, and a third-rounder in Kelley Washington. But special teams coach Darrin Simmons had him as a rookie in Baltimore, when he had a good year returning kicks. And Simmons has seen some solid special teams tape on him from last season making tackles.

"I know there are good (receivers) already here, but I bring some things to the table," Johnson said. "I don't mind doing special teams. I'll tackle. I'm willing. Tackling is either you want to or you don't want to. Ideally, what I really want to do is show I can contribute as a wide receiver and change the misconception people have of me as a player. If you throw it to me, I can catch it. I just don't run fast."

Johnson has 82 career catches and has run past people. His career yard-per catch had been pretty much at 15 until he dipped to about 11 last year, but he hopes that can be revived in an offense that figures to take plenty of shots down field with Carson Palmer at quarterback.

"I'm going to play hard and see what happens," Johnson said. "I think I'm finally in a place that knows what I can do."

Meanwhile, Beckett has taken trips to the Jets, Tampa Bay, and Carolina, but had indicated about 10 days ago the Bengals were his top choice after being one of Cincinnati's pleasant surprises in 2003.

Beckett, 27, heads into his fifth season after what was probably his best season. After being plucked off the waiver wire June 11 from the Chargers, Becket made nine starts and led the Cincinnati secondary with three sacks, 87 tackles and one forced fumble while adding two interceptions and four pass breakups.

The Bengals may try to get right guard Bobbie Williams from the Eagles, but he's expected to get an offer in Buffalo Wednesday.

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