BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Corey Dillon negotiations may be at a standstill, but the Bengals say they won't let it stay that way as they make plans under the salary cap. Bengals President Mike Brown said today the club won't let the stalemate linger because at some point it will have to use money reserved for Dillon on other players. They could use it to sign their own free agents, or pursue a free agent who is released late in training camp. But they can't do both and sign Dillon.
With the waiving of Carl Pickens last week, the Bengals picked up $3 million under their cap. But with possible incentives for quarterback Akili Smith and wide receiver Peter Warrick kicking in this year, injuries, and grievances, the cap is squeezed. Contract extensions and possibly signing new veteran free agents on the waiver wire could gobble up Dillon room.
At least for now, the Bengals are waiting to see what Dillon does. The agent for Pro Bowl kick returner Tremain Mack approached the club today about an extension, but David Levine was told the Bengals are just beginning to put together their salary cap if Dillon follows through on his threat to sit out the first 10 games.
"If we sign some of our own players or get another player, that would write off doing a deal for Corey other than the ($1.37 million one year) tender," Brown said. "I don't have any inkling what's in (Dillon's) mind. If they have any intention to do a deal or not do a deal. At some point we're going to have to make the call because we can do other things. We're just not going to sit and wait."
Brown wouldn't say at what point he would give up on signing Dillon and leave enough room to pay him for the last six games at about $198,000. He said he hasn't been approached about a trade.
"It's an option, but it isn't one we're pursuing," Brown said. "If someone came to us, we would look at anything."
All signs from Dillon are that he's upset enough at the club to sit out the 10 games, figuring he'll get a big deal in free agency that the club won't match no matter if he plays or not.
Mack, center Rich Braham, and left guard Matt O'Dwyer are the players looking at unrestricted free agency in 2001. Dillon figures to earn the transition tag, which means a team doesn't give up compensation if the Bengals don't match an offer.
GRIEVANCE TO BE FILED ON CLAUSE: **The NFL Management Council has informed the Bengals that the NFL Players Association plans to file a grievance against the Bengals' "Carl Pickens Clause." Katie Blackburn, the club's executive vice president, was told that the case could be heard anywhere from mid-August to early September. She said a decision could come down within two weeks after it's heard.
"It's best to find out whether it works or it doesn't," Brown said. "Debating it in the media hasn't been helpful. Now we'll find out and we'll go forward according to the decision. Either its valid or it isn't."
In an effort to prevent other players from pulling a Pickens ripping the head coach and management in an effort to get released the Bengals added a clause to their signing bonus that would allow them to recoup all or part of a player's signing bonus for such actions. The club framed the clause with loyalty language already in the collective bargaining agreement and standard player contract.
Five rookies signed the clause (wide receiver Ron Dugans, running back Curtis Keaton, cornerback Robert Bean, kicker Neil Rackers and long snapper Brad St. Louis) and all but the agent for St. Louis filed a letter of protest. Dugans held out the first five practices of camp because of the clause.
The NFLPA doesn't want guaranteed money exposed to sanctions and argues the clause isn't needed because discipline is already covered in the CBA. The Bengals say signing bonuses are so large and take up so much of the salary cap that the club needs to be protected.
SCOTT APOLOGIZES:Bengals wide receiver Darnay Scott has paid his $5,200 debt to J&J Customs Cycle of Florence, Ky., and apologized to the owners for giving them a check for insufficient funds. Philip Taliaferro III, Scott's lawyer, said tonight one of the owners will ask Boone Couny to drop the charge that landed Scott in jail for a few hours last week for passing a bad check. The case has been continued to Aug. 17, meaning Scott can play in the Aug. 4 preseason opener in Buffalo.
"Darnay wants to come to court and publicly apologize for what has happened," Taliaferro said. "And he wants to apologize for any embarrassment that he might have caused his team and his teammates. The bottom line is that there was a misunderstanding because someone else handles his finances and he was living in St. Louis. Elaine Agnew, one of the owners, was very appreciative of his apology and she believes there was a misunderstanding. Darnay appreciated their response and will remain a customer."
INJURY UPDATE:Saturday's scrimmage has lost some star power with injuries. WR Darnay Scott (Achilles tendinitis), DE John Copeland (ankle soreness), OLB Takeo Spikes (shoulder strain), and DE Michael Bankston (swollen calf) are going to sit out. WR Craig Yeast, the hometown favorite who would play in place of Scott, is doubtful with a tender hamstring. NT Oliver Gibson (knee) is questionable. Look for Adrian Ross to start in place of Spikes and possibly Jevon Langford for Copeland.
QB Akili Smith's bruised right forearm is fine, but he sat out Friday's skills session with a medical oddity. Trainer Paul Sparling said Smith suffered an allergic reaction, possibly from sheets he put on his bed, but no one was quite sure what caused the illness. He didn't feel much better in the afternoon, but still practiced and will go Saturday.
Arthroscopic surgery on C Rich Braham's swollen knee has been discussed, but it would shelve him for three to six weeks and Braham thinks he can wait until after the season. But he thinks the knee will have to get drained once a week. He's questionable for the scrimmage.