Bengals still seek run stuffer

3-6-01 BY GEOFF HOBSON

Ted Washington's agent said Tuesday his client is out of the Cincinnati sweepstakes as the Bengals switched focus to Vikings defensive tackle Tony Williams.

The 6-1, 290-pound Williams is due to get on a plane headed to Cleveland for a visit late Tuesday, but the Bengals hoped to sign him before he left.

Also in town visiting was long-time Steelers and Jaguars right tackle Leon Searcy. Searcy, who is set to visit Baltimore and Cleveland, may be on the backburner with other deals and because of his age (31) and recent injury history that includes last year's season-ending quad injury.

Also, the Packers' Ross Verba, a former No. 1 pick the Bengals think can play left tackle, is headed here for a visit Monday.

Plus, Willie Anderson let it be known if the Bengals moved him from right tackle to left tackle to make room for Searcy, he'd want $2 million more. Anderson signed a six-year, $30.5 million deal back in May that put him at the top of the right tackles.

"But I would do it. I think it would be a hell of a move," said the 340-pound Anderson, who acknowledged he would have to lose 20 pounds for the switch. "But I would do it. I think it would be a hell of a move. It would really boost our line.

"I'm not being ungrateful. I know I've been blessed," Anderson said. "It's like when a company wants to transfer a good employee and he has to move his whole family to a new place. They give him a little raise."

But the Bengals focus Tuesday was signing Williams soon.

"We're working on it and we hope to have something," said Jimmy Sexton, Williams' agent.

Angelo Wright, Washington's agent, said the Bengals never approached the market for a Pro Bowl defensive tackle in term or money. It's believed the Bengals offered Washington more in a two-year deal than what Sam Adams gets in the first two years of his deal in Baltimore.

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It's believed Wright sought a four-year deal worth about $20 million, while the Bengals were looking at a two-year deal comparable to their $3 million-per-year starting linemen.

"I just don't understand it," Wright said. "They pursued him with such passion and enthusiasm and they ended up not getting close on the offer. It was like expecting caviar and ending up with Lake Erie smelt."

Washington, who turns 33 next month, said Monday during his visit he wanted to play for the Bengals after becoming a salary cap casualty in Buffalo following his third Pro Bowl season. But the Bengals are apparently interested in teaming Williams' youth with Oliver Gibson in the middle of the line.

Williams, who turns 26 in July, thought he would get drafted by the Bengals when he came out of Memphis in 1997.

Instead, the Vikings drafted him in the fifth round and he's turned into an athletic run stuffer who can also rush the passer.

"I've known Coach Krumrie since he jumped on my back," said Williams of the workout he had in college with Bengals defensive line coach Tim Krumrie. "I play with heart. That's what I try to do."

Williams is quick and has the superb hands of a wrestler who contended for the Tennessee state title at Oakhaven High School in Memphis.

Searcy was drawn to Cincinnati because of head coach Dick LeBeau, the Steelers defensive coordinator when Searcy played with Pittsburgh in the mid '90s.

The last time he played left tackle? His senior year at the University of Miami.

"Can't do it," Searcy said. "I'm a right tackle."

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