4-29-02, 3:00 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals are prepared to go into this weekend's minicamp with two healthy quarterbacks while they continue to pursue Broncos backup Gus Frerotte.
The club has been told that Marvin Demoff, Frerotte's agent, isn't sure when he can give Cincinnati a counter-proposal because of a personal matter that arose late last week.
With Shane Matthews' decision to re-join college coach Steve Spurrier in Washington Monday and forgo Tuesday's recruiting visit to Cincinnati, the Bengals are looking at options other than the dwindling list of veteran free-agent quarterbacks.
The man who will join Jon Kitna, Akili Smith and Scott Covington may not even be available yet. The Bengals are eyeing the potential June 1 cuts, with various national reports isolating Detroit's Charlie Batch as the most attractive quarterback who may pop free.
Smith is expected to miss the May workouts as he recovers from hamstring surgery.
"We will add a guy and we won't add one just to add one," said Troy Blackburn, the Bengals director of
business development negotiating the Frerotte deal. "We're going to get a quality guy and I think it's fair to say there will be some available after June 1. But we'd also like to try and get a deal with Gus."
ESPN.com reported Monday that the Bengals have offered Frerotte a three-year deal in the $2.6 million range that includes a $500,000 signing bonus and annual incentives up to $1 million. ESPN indicated that Demoff may object to an incentive package that is based on Frerotte playing 80 percent of the snaps and the team winning at least eight games. The Bengals would have to win 12 games and Frerotte would have to play in 80 percent of the downs to get $1 million.
"We threw out an offer and told them we were flexible on structure and length," Blackburn said. "You're talking about a guy who hasn't been a starting quarterback since 1997. We told them a year, two years, three years, you tell us what you're looking for. If he wants to play, it can be an attractive deal."
The Bengals figure they can give Frerotte the thing the Broncos can't, which is the chance to return to the starting role he had with Washington in the mid 1990s. In his last extended stint, Frerotte led the Broncos to a 4-2 record in 2000 while playing for the injured Brian Griese.
Frerotte, who turns 31 in training camp, said he'd like to get his situation resolved before the Broncos and Bengals start their minicamps this weekend.
On Sunday night, Frerotte told Bengals.com that he's convinced after meeting with Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau that he would get an opportunity to win the job currently held by Kitna.
"I'm very impressed with Coach LeBeau and he told me several times in the conversation that I would get a chance," Frerotte said. "I liked him last year when we sat down and talked the first time. It just didn't work out and sometimes that happens."
Frerotte turned down virtually the same deal Kitna signed 13 months ago. It was a four-year offer with the potential to max out at $12 million based on similar incentives. A year ago, the length of the deal had been the major concern of the Frerotte side, but on Monday Blackburn emphasized that the Bengals are willing to talk about all kinds of lengths.
The Bengals have run at many of the names on a free-agent quarterback list that is now pretty much left to Jonathan Quinn, Tony Banks and Jason Garrett. The Bengals contacted Matthews,Trent Dilfer, Elvis Grbac and the Patriots turned down their 2002 second-round draft pick in exchange for Drew Bledsoe.