Bengals to get proposal

8-27-01, 12:35 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals are holding firm on their stance against guaranteed money.

So the agent for Justin Smith hopes to make headway Monday with a proposal that doesn't include a guarantee for a split signing bonus for the NFL Draft's fourth pick.

That could be a major development because agent Jim Steiner is making the offer even though the fifth pick, San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson, signed a guarantee last week. Steiner had dropped his bid for guarantees last week before Tomlinson signed, but they still couldn't agree on other elements of the deal, such as escalator triggers.

With Smith's holdout reaching its 39th day Monday, the club is anxious to reach a deal. For the first time since the advent of the rookie salary pool in 1994, the Bengals have the last unsigned player in the draft.

Steiner also said Sunday night that each piece of the proposal, ranging

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from such items as signing bonus, first-year compensation, option signing bonus, escalators, and total value, "will be 99.9 percent

slotted between the third and fifth picks."

Tomlinson and No. 3 Gerard Warren of Cleveland have similar structures in their deals, which inflate to high salaries in the final three years of the contract with a one-time trigger.

The Bengals don't like that structure because they say it only amounts to a three-year deal if the player hits the trigger but falls short as a top player.

But Steiner said he's crafting the proposal with the club in mind.

"We're tying to address their concerns while at the same time getting a fair deal," Steiner said. "We think putting this deal between 3 and 5 is all about fairness. That's how the draft system works."

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