Bengals look to line up

Posted: 7:40 p.m.

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Williams will be entering his third season with the Bengals in '06. (Bengals photo)

7:30 p.m.

The Bengals took a step in protecting Carson Palmer over the long haul Friday, but the release of the schedule hasn't stepped up their timetable for his backup.

In fact, right guard Bobbie Williams' three-year extension figures to preclude the Bengals from signing Joey Harrington to that one-year deal in the $2 million range they had floated the Lions quarterback. With Williams' re-done deal counting $2.5 million against this year's salary cap and the Bengals hoping to lock up linemates Willie Anderson, Levi Jones and Eric Steinbach, the concepts of Harrington, LaVar Arrington, and other free agents are on the shelf with the April 29-30 NFL Draft moving to center stage for the defending AFC North champs.

Not only are the Bengals choosing to go internal with their bigger deals, Harrington believes his best chance to play comes behind Daunte Culpepper in Miami rather than Palmer in Cincinnati.

That means the Rams' Jamie Martin is at the top of the list for backup quarterback, but the Bengals don't look to be in a hurry to get him in here. They have said they want another quarterback to join Palmer, Craig Krenzel and Doug Johnson before the coaching sessions start May 16.

On the heels of the Sam Adams signing, the Bengals literally wrapped up a big week with about 700 pounds worth of man and about $5 million in cap count in the middle of their lines.

"Bobbie got this deal done. He wanted to be there and I give the Browns and Troy Blackburn credit for making it happen," said agent Tony Agnone on Friday of the Bengals front office. "He feels like he's part of something special and that he's going into the prime of his career in these next few years."

Williams couldn't be reached for comment.

Agnone and Blackburn, the club's director of business development, worked out the structure late Friday in an effort to give the Bengals a salary cap number for '06 that fits into their plans to pursue the other lineman.

It's believed the extension averages $3.5 million per year. There's a $4 million guarantee with a $2.5 signing bonus prorated over the three years and a $1.5 million roster bonus this year.

The 6-4, 340-pound Williams has come into his own since coming over from the Eagles in free agency before the 2004 season and has missed just one snap since he arrived. He's been the linchpin of a running game that has produced running back Rudi Johnson's back-to-back franchise season rushing records, but his growth as a player can be seen in the club's pass protection last year.

The NFL had 12 teams that finished with at least 40 sacks and the Bengals played six of them in setting a franchise record for fewest sacks allowed in a season with 21 that broke a record set in a 14-game season.

"I think he's a guy that's underrated even in some of the areas where he was supposed to have some knocks," said assistant line coach Bob Surace. "We've had some pretty good pass protection and Bobbie's been a big part of that."

When they signed Williams, the Bengals knew they had a massive run blocker to team with the Pro Bowl Anderson on the right side. Some people around the league questioned Williams's quickness when it came to pass blocking. But when Surace and line coach Paul Alexander fine-tuned his technique and got him away from opening up his body, a lot of the problem had been solved.

"Bobbie was really an offensive tackle in college and he was pass blocking like a tackle," Alexander said of a player the Eagles took in the second round out of Arkansas in 2000. "When he settled down and became more comfortable with guard techniques, he's become a real good pass blocker."

Williams, who turns 30 the day after the Bengals play in Pittsburgh Sept. 24, has found a home in the Cincinnati weight room, where strength coaches Chip Morton and Ray Oliver have pushed him to realize his Pro Bowl goal.

"He really likes it there. He feels like they understand what it takes to get him to reach his full potential," Agnone said.

Alexander and Surace can't get enough of the guy's talent and attitude. Rare talent and a happy-go-lucky attitude that could be seen in a note he drew on Alexander's grease board Friday, using his signature greeting and signing it with his number: "Just dropped by to tell you guys, 'What's Up,' 63."

"He's rare. He can move big people off the ball and there are very few people in the league like that," Alexander said. "He's a key guy in our offense. He's more than just a guard because he's got the size and strength the average guy just doesn't have. He's got such rare explosiveness, and he's a reliable player with a great attitude. A fun guy to coach."

Surace says, "He's the kind of guy Marvin is always looking to bring in here. Never misses an offseason workout," and it was head coach Marvin Lewis who approached Agnone at the Senior Bowl.

"He said, 'We've got to talk about Bobbie,' " Agnone said. "I said, 'OK, what did he do wrong?' and he said, 'No, we've got to get this deal done.' That's when I knew we'd get something."

Lewis and the front office are just as serious about getting a deal for the others. So serious that besides their own free agents like tight end Tony Stewart, those appear to be the only guys on their radar.

The Bengals figure to have about $7 million to spend on them in '06 cap room, which is above the rookie pool, restricted free agent tenders, and pad for incentives and injured players.

It's believed that Adams and Williams (about $5 million), safety Dexter Jackson (about $2 million), wide receiver Antonio Chatman (about $1 million) and four of their own free agents (about $2 million) account for somewhere between $9 and $10 million of this year's cap room.

The club may also get an answer soon on wide receiver Chris Henry. According to Florida state court records, a trial date should be set soon after he filed a not guilty plea on a felony gun charge. If he's not acquitted, he'll be looking at some type of NFL suspension.

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