10-10-01, 2:00 p.m.
Updated: 10-10-01, 4:15 p.m. >Updated:
10-11-01, 3:30 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons smiled Wednesday when asked about fellow linebacker Steve Foley's four-year contract extension complete with a $3 million bonus.
That's because they think Foley deserved it. And they know, finally, they're next. The Foley deal leaves the Bengals without a major free-agent problem next offseason for the first time since after the 1996 season.
One of the major reasons the Bengals made the move with Foley now instead of later is they feel it will help them keep both Spikes and Simmons, their defensive centerpieces whose contracts run through 2002, despite the constraints of the salary cap.
But the talks won't begin, at the earliest, until after this season.
"They have another year yet," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "I think two years (left on a contract) is too early (to start negotiating). We like the way they've played and we would want to keep them. They really are just coming into their own. It takes awhile to learn how to play linebacker in this league. Their best years are going to be the next four, not the last four."
Asked what he thinks he's worth now, Spikes laughed and said, "I think you can put me with Derrick Brooks," a guy taking home per year about double the $3 million Foley got Wednesday.
"There's no problems with me. I'm glad for him," Spikes said. "We're kidding about it. How Brian and I are the two lowest paid linebackers on the team behind Foley and Adrian (Ross who was extended earlier this year). That's OK. We'll get it off them in clothes and food."
Spikes ($3.6 million) and Simmons ($3.2 million) still got more up front than Foley as No. 1 picks in 1998. But their average salary (Spikes $1.25 million, Simmons $1.2 million) is lower than the $2 million per year Foley gets in the first three years of his deal and could get in his final year.
David Levine, who recently became Foley's agent, said his client will get $6 million in the next three years and could get $8 million for four if he makes some incentives. P>"The main attraction is getting $3 million up front," Levine said. "That pretty much sets you up for life. And Steve wanted to stay with those guys."
Because the Bengals did the Foley deal before mid-season, it allowed them to shove about $1 million into this year's salary cap and leaves them room if they want to extend other potential free agents. Levine also represents one of those in defensive end Reinard Wilson, a former first-round pick set to start his fourth straight game this week after hardly playing the previous two seasons.
"Katie and I said we'd wait until about mid-season to see how things are going with Reinard," Levine said of Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn. "We didn't say we'd talk contract, but we'll talk."
Foley, who forced two fumbles in the 21-10 victory over Baltimore and is fifth on the team with 27 tackles, is relieved.
"People don't realize it, but having something like that get done takes a load off," Foley said. "Not that it was affecting my play, but it was on my mind. Now everything is clear. No doubt the next thing is getting Brian and Takeo taken care of. That's one of the reasons I signed, so I could play with them."
Simmons: "Good for Steve. His contract was up and ours isn't."
Among the Bengals potential free agents next year besides Wilson are cornerback Artrell Hawkins, free safety Chris Carter and backup quarterback Scott Mitchell.