4-29-04, 11:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Now we know why the Bengals didn't reach for a center in last weekend's NFL Draft.
After hearing on Friday that the Redskins had released a veteran who had started 72 games, the Bengals made immediate contact with Larry Moore, brought him in for a visit Monday, and agreed to a three-year deal with him Thursday.
The Bengals won't comment until Moore signs his contract next week, but agent Jack Bechta confirmed a deal that gives the Bengals their lone reserve offensive lineman who has started a NFL game.
The 6-2, 300-pound Moore, who turns 29 in June, is penciled in as a backup to center Rich Braham. But with Braham turning 34 in November and working on a one-year deal, it could turn into something Moore in 2005 and 2006.
"I'm going to do whatever I can to start, but if
the team thinks it helps them best for me to back up, then I'll back up," Moore said Thursday night.
If it sounds like Moore is Lewis' kind of unselfish player, he is. He is also the 14th player Lewis has brought in with playoff experience. As a starter for the Colts, Moore helped Indianapolis to the playoffs twice before becoming the Redskins' starting center in 2002.
"That's one of the big reasons why I came," Moore said. "This team is obviously close. Only one game away last year if you look at it. If they beat Cleveland and Baltimore lost. . ."
Moore started 16 games in '02 and the first eight of last season before he went on injured reserve with a severely sprained foot. But he's back and running, and looking forward to re-joining Lewis, the Redskins defensive coordinator in '02, after Washington cut him for salary cap reasons.
"I wanted to join Marvin and what I think is a great coaching staff," Moore said. "When Marvin left last year, I did follow them a little bit and when they put that winning streak together, it was 'Wow, they might really make it.' It was the kind of thing where there were people pulling for them."
Moore and Braham have a lot in common. Both have made the switch from guard to center, with Moore making the move heading into his last year in Indianapolis in 2001. Both are considered smart guys who can help communicate with the rest of the line. Like Braham, who has played through countless injuries, Moore's career has been marked by tenacity. He came out of Brigham Young as an undrafted guard for Seattle in 1997, but after getting cut by the Seahawks and the Redskins, Moore hooked on with the Colts the next year.
"The biggest thing I learned (at center) was how to recognize defenses in the middle," Moore said. "After awhile, it slowed down enough in there. I feel like I can play both. Whatever they need me to do."
The Bengals are looking at a huge roster scrum on the offensive line. The five starters make it as well as Moore, and fourth-rounder Stacy Andrews figures to make it because the 6-5, 325-pounder won't clear waivers in order for the Bengals to put him on the practice squad.
That could leave just three spots among last year's seventh-rounder, Scott Kooistra, and veterans, Thatcher Szalay, Alex Sulfsted, Victor Leyva, Mike Mabry, and rookie tackles Pete Lougheed, Belton Johnson and Justin Sands, as well as some college free agents.
Moore reportedly received $200,000 to sign, and minimum salaries that average out to $1.1 million per year with play-time incentives.