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Bengals catch Westbrook in three-year deal

7-2-02, 5:20 p.m.


The Bengals ended three weeks of negotiations Tuesday when they reached a three-year deal with former Redskins wide receiver Michael Westbrook, according to Westbrook agent Steve Zucker.

Westbrook, who turns 30 on Sunday, may very well end up replacing Darnay Scott in the starting lineup and, possibly, on the roster.

"From the get go, this is where he wanted to be," said Zucker Tuesday after he concluded face-to-face talks with Bengals official Duke Tobin in Chicago. "After meeting the coaches and Mike Brown, he told me right away, 'Make me a Bengal.''

Terms weren't divulged, but Zucker said structure was the key to getting the deal done Tuesday. Which means the Bengals probably put a little more in first-year compensation.

Scott, who also turns 30 Sunday, is the fourth-leading receiver in Bengals' history who averaged 92

yards last year in Cincinnati's six victories. But the club hasn't seen him since a sore left shin shelved him at minicamp two months ago. Plus, his status is also clouded by the final year of a contract that owes him $3 million this season in salary and a Sept. 1 roster bonus.

Scott is still on the team, but the 6-2, 220-pound Westbrook is looming after running what was timed on one watch as 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash during his June 10 workout at Paul Brown Stadium.

The timing convinced Bengals' officials he's at least as fast as Scott, if not faster, and that the reconstructed knee he tore up in the second game of the 2000 season is healthy. Because of his absence, the Bengals aren't so sure about the health of Scott, who also missed the 2000 season when he broke his left leg.

Westbrook, who led the NFL with 18.3 yards per catch in 1999, is still trying to find the greatness predicted for him when he was the Redskins' fourth pick in the 1995 NFL Draft out of Colorado. But he is a long-ball threat who had a monster '99 season with 1,191 yards on 65 catches and nine touchdowns.

He led the Redskins last season with 57 catches and had four touchdowns for an 11.6-yard average that included a 76-yard touchdown catch. He reportedly turned down a three-year, $4 million deal in February to stay in Washington and has been looking since.

The Bengals haven't had a catch over 50 yards in this century, or in 34 straight games, or since Scott caught a 52-yard touchdown pass in the last Bengals game at Cinergy Field against the Browns on Dec. 12, 1999. In his career, Scott has 11 touchdown catches of at least 50 yards, but for the first time in his career last year he went through a season without catching a 50-yarder and he had a career-low two touchdowns.

In seven seasons, Westbrook has 277 catches for 4,260 yards for a 15.3 average and 24 touchdowns. In seven seasons, Scott has 386 catches for 5,975 yards for a 15.5 average and 36 touchdowns.

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