7-15-04, 1:30 p.m.
7-16-04, 1:15 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
With the Jason Gildon talks stalled, the Bengals moved on Thursday to a younger defensive end already on the roster and likely to play more snaps when they extended 2003 co-sack leader Duane Clemons' contract through 2006.
With Clemons now taking home $2 million this season instead of $900,000, according to ESPN.com, that took Gildon out of the mix in Cincinnati. That came down early Saturday morning when The Buffalo News reported Gildon had reached a verbal agreement on a one-year deal with the Bills.
On Friday, the Bengals continued to make moves, waiving linebacker Dwayne Levels, a second-year NFL player from Oklahoma State who played in 13 games last season with one start. He had nine tackles on defense and 10 tackles on special teams before going on injured reserve with a knee injury. The club now has the maximum 82 players on the roster that they can take to training camp in 13 days. They still have to sign their 11 draft picks.
Peter Schaffer, Gildon's agent, said earlier he didn't think the Clemons' deal impacted his talks with the Bengals. The Bengals had been taking to Schaffer for nearly a month, but they apparently became anxious enough to shore up one of their line spots for the next few years and shifted their focus to Clemons. One of the stumbling blocks was probably the length of the deal, given the Bengals would have probably wanted Gildon to sign a two-year contract.
It's believed Clemons' revamped contract could count as much as $500,000 more under this year's salary cap. With the Bengals getting close to the $4.6 million they need to sign their draft picks, the numbers suggest they couldn't do both Clemons and Gildon.
They are both known mainly as pass rushers. Except Clemons, 30, had six sacks last year as a three-down left end that shared the team sack title with tackle John Thornton in a season he had four more sacks than what he had in Kansas City the year before. His 41 career sacks are most on the Cincinnati roster.
Gildon, two years older than Clemons, is also coming off a six-sack season, his fewest in five years. He's looking at making some kind of transition from 3-4 linebacker to an end as a situational player on passing downs.
Clemons is one of head coach Marvin Lewis' playoff-tested imports who signed a two-year deal last May and brought the daily professionalism the new coach sought for his locker room.
Gildon, the Steelers' all-time sack leader, is also an esteemed pro for who Lewis has high regard. Lewis was the Pittsburgh linebackers coach ten years and 77 sacks ago when the Steelers drafted Gildon in the third round out of Oklahoma State.
The Clemons' extension also indicates the Bengals don't have interest in the recently released Darrell Russell, the Tampa Bay defensive tackle cut even before he took a snap for the Buccaneers.
The Bengals haven't hidden the fact they are trying to beef up their tackle depth. They nearly had Warren Sapp, but lost out to the Raiders in the 11th hour. They had Darryl Gardener, but the paper didn't get signed when his bad back reportedly flared up and now has him mulling retirement.
Russell, 28, a Pro Bowler in 1998 and 1999, has had off-field problems. According to ESPN.com, he tested positive for the designer drug Ecstasy in 2001, and he began that season serving a four-game suspension that was extended to an indefinite suspension. While under suspension, Russell was charged with drugging a woman and videotaping two friends allegedly raping her. All counts in that case were dropped in September, 2002 for lack of evidence.
Now reports say Russell faces another indefinite suspension after his release Tuesday stemmed from a positive test for alcohol.
ESPN.com reported Clemons' deal as a $1.3 million signing bonus with salaries of $700,000, $1.25 million, and $1.35 million. If he gets eight sacks in any season, he'll make an extra $100,000.