BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals fielded a counter-proposal from right tackle Willie Anderson's agent today, but they are standing by an offer they say makes him the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman. That would put the six-year extension at more than the $30.5 million deal Jon Runyan recently signed in Philadelphia.
"We recognize that Willie is important enough to the team that we've approached him a year ahead of (free agency) and given him an offer we feel makes him the highest paid lineman in the league," said Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn. "It's up to Willie to decide if he wants to go forward knowing his future is secure or wait until the end of the season and take his chances."
Anderson has said he's concerned about structure. In the first year of his deal, Runyan got $6 million to sign, a $3.5 million roster bonus, and a $500,000 salary. The Bengals figure to keep Anderson's salary at $1 million for this season while giving him a bigger signing bonus than Runyan's. But they probably won't give as much as $10 million total in the first year.
Terry Bolar, Anderson's agent, said tonight he had yet to have a chance to review the Bengals' response to his offer. He planned to speak with Anderson some time this weekend to see what happens next.
"It depends what they have to say," said Bolar of his next move. "It's too soon to say. I want to talk with Willie and talk about a few more things and get back to them."
Since the Bengals aren't tearing up the last year of Anderson's current deal, it would be considered a seven-year contract. But the Bengals view the new money in the last six-years as the largest in the league.
"Every team has a different salary cap situation," Blackburn said. "We've constructed a contract that fits in with the salary cap of the Cincinnati Bengals for this season and for the next few seasons. But if you look at the total deal, it's better than Runyan's." **
In other news:
A magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI) showed that quarterback Eric Kresser has a questionable small cartilage tear in his shoulder. A rotator cuff injury has been ruled out, but the Benglas plan to treat the injury conservatively.
Trainer Paul Sparling said surgery hasn't been ruled out, but it won't be done now. He also said there's a chance with rest that he could return to play in NFL Europe in the next month. But Sparling also said it's not certain if Kresser would be ready by the July 21 start of training camp.