Bengals continue pursuit of corners

3-15-04, 12:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals continued to pursue a veteran cornerback in free agency Monday afternoon when they traded proposals with the agent for Eagles cornerback Bobby Taylor while Troy Vincent opted to go to Buffalo.

Jason Medlock said Taylor was still at Paul Brown Stadium while he made a counter-offer to the Bengals. Vincent set an 8 p.m. Monday deadline for his announcement, but Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis told a radio audience Vincent had decided in favor of the Bills over the Bengals and Chiefs.

Vincent made the decision even though he came back to Cincinnati for another visit this weekend after an initial stop at PBS in the first 48 hours of free agency. Lewis confirmed that visit, as well as the trips by Taylor and former Ravens defensive tackle Lional Dalton.

Vincent reportedly received a six-year, $20 million deal with a $3.6 million signing bonus.

The agent for Bengals strong safety Rogers Beckett indicated Friday that his client is probably going to take the weekend to decide from a field that includes the Bengals and Buccaneers, and where he still has Cincinnati listed first.

The Tampa Tribune reported over the weekend that the Bengals expressed interest in Bucs Pro Bowl safety John Lynch, but all indications are Cincinnati is trying to get its cornerback situation resolved first.

With running back Corey Dillon still a Bengal heading into the weekend, the club's potential Draft Day scenarios are now becoming interesting. The price tag looks to be a second-rounder, especially with the two major trades since free agency opened last week taking a No. 2 to get done. But it appears there have been no takers from the leading suspects in Oakland and Denver.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens, 30, a player who is a year older and more controversial than Dillon, went to the Ravens from the 49ers for a second-rounder. Justin McCareins, a fourth-year wide receiver with fewer than 100 career catches, went from the Titans to the Jets for the same price. Dillon had his streak of six straight 1,000-yard seasons snapped last year, but his 8,061 yards is 28th on the all-time list.

"A real high second-round pick gives us a lot – if we choose at that point, it will be a good player," said Titans general manager Floyd

Reese when the McCareins deal went down. "I mean, we're confident of that. But it also gives us the leeway to move around in the draft. If we want to go up, for the first time in a couple years we'll have enough ammo to get up. If we want to drop down, of course, we'll end up with additional picks."

If the Bengals get the Raiders' second for Dillon, they'll have the 45th pick in the draft and their own at No. 49. If they get the Broncos' first pick in the second round from the Clinton Portis trade, they would have Nos. 41 and 49. The Broncos' own pick in the second is at No. 54.

Plus, the Bengals could always get another second-rounder by moving down from No. 17 in the first round. If they could somehow use Dillon to help get them four picks between, say, Nos. 22-50, it would be a pretty decent haul.

At that point, they could probably find their center of the future, and maybe a tag-team partner for wide receiver Chad Johnson, a defensive tackle, and a cornerback.

But all that not only hinges on getting a second-rounder for Dillon, but a veteran cornerback in free agency. Vincent, 33, doesn't have an offer yet from Carolina, the team he talked up at the Pro Bowl, but he does have three offers and the Chiefs might be able to do more for him than the first time. If Kansas City decides not to match the Bears' offer to tackle John Tait by midnight Saturday, they clear $6 million in salary cap room.

Taylor and Vincent each went to the Pro Bowl in 2002 for Philadelphia, when they played under current Bengals defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

Taylor, 30, has ties in several spots. A Houston native who has talked about playing in his home state, Taylor plans to visit Dallas after visiting the Bengals this Sunday and Monday. Taylor has also visited Seattle, where his old coach with the Eagles, Ray Rhodes, is the defensive coordinator.

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