3-6-02, 4:05 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals talked with Todd Peterson Wednesday, but the Chiefs' kicker is going to keep his appointment in Minnesota Thursday while his agent keeps talking to Cincinnati.
The Bengals zeroed in on securing a visit from Chargers tight end Freddie Jones and they are under the impression that cornerback Artrell Hawkins is headed to Seattle for a visit.
Peterson, 32, made it clear after his Paul Brown Stadium tour that he would like to sign a contract with the team from which he'll retire. And he thinks the Bengals fit the mold.
"I would not take a trip right now to a team I didn't think would have a chance to win," Peterson said. "This would be a phenomenal situation for an experienced veteran place kicker who produces consistently."
It's an interesting market for kickers, as well as everyone else because it looks to be tight. With Super Bowl hero Adam Vinatieri and Jason Elam designated franchise free agents, Peterson is the top free agent on a market that might not produce more than the minimum salary of $670,000 for kickers.
Mike Moye, Peterson's agent, wouldn't discuss talks with the Bengals, citing office policy. But he believes the market will yield much more than minimum for a solid kicker, pointing to the recent kicker deals that are between $1.2 and $1.9 million annually.
"That's not taking a very big bite at all out of the salary cap," Moye
said. "And we're talking about having a game-winning impact. Witness Adam Vinatieri in the Super Bowl. This isn't a $4 to $5 million market for defensive ends. Or tight ends. Or quarterbacks. It's not a tight market for kickers."
The Bengals have a lot going for them in their courting of Peterson. He lunched with offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, a friend from playing in Seattle. One of his best friends is Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna.
He told me, 'Todd, we could have won 10 games if a couple of things happened special teams related,'" Peterson said. "Lots of things have to happen. Nine or 10 wins isn't out of the question. Bob Bratkowski said the same thing."
Peterson said he got the same message from Bengals President Mike Brown and head coach Dick LeBeau. That their team is close. And he believes them.
Just how much the Bengals will offer a 32-year-old kicker is uncertain. He missed a 37-yarder and 28-yarder in two close losses to the Raiders last year, but his consistency is what the Bengals seek.
After eight seasons, Peterson is one of the NFL's most accurate field-goal kickers ever. He came into 2001 eighth at 80.3 and is now at 79.8 after making 27 of 35 this past season, which included 18-for-21 from inside 40 and 9-for-14 from beyond 40.
Peterson is seen as an average kick-off guy, but the Bengals like his career field-goal percentage of 83 percent inside 50, 88.6 inside 40, and 67 percent from outside 40 yards.
Neil Rackers heads into his third season in Cincinnati kicking 71 percent within 40, 39 percent beyond 40, and 60 percent inside the 50-yard line.
"For me to come here, I'm going to be the guy," Peterson said. "I'm not going to play cat-and-mouse games."
Peterson wants to make a decision quickly because he wants to get his wife and two pre-school children settled. He said Minnesota's dome is enticing and he knows new Vikings head coach Mike Tice from Seattle. He also expects to visit another team and continues to talk to the Chiefs.