2-27-2001 BY GEOFF HOBSON
Free agency started early for the Bengals Tuesday when they arranged for Pro Bowl defensive lineman Ted Washington to visit Paul Brown Stadium next Monday.
Angelo Wright, Washington's agent, confirmed the visit on Tuesday, just five days after the Bills cut his client for salary cap reasons.
"We haven't talked money yet, but the Bengals sound pretty interested," Wright said. "It's set up where he's coming in there to talk to everybody, including (head coach) Dick LeBeau, and it just sounds like they are going to go after him. He's got an open mind and I've told him they've got some good linebackers over there. He liked the sounds of that."
The 6-5, 350-pound Washington is also visiting Seattle this Thursday as the Seahawks try to continue to fill the hole Sam Adams left when he joined the Super Bowl champion Ravens last year via free agency.
Washington, a University of Louisville product who turns 33 in April, has been called Buffalo's best free-agent signing ever as one of the NFL's more immovable objects.
Since joining the Bills in 1995, Buffalo has finished in the NFL's top ten in defense the past five years and in the top six against the run the last three seasons.
This year the Bills were ranked third overall and sixth against the run as Washington went to his third Pro Bowl while retaining his reputation as one of the most active players the Bills have ever had in the community.
But Washington's $7.66 million cap figure for this season was deemed unmanageable by new Buffalo general manager Tom Donahoe because he hardly plays on passing downs and played barely 50 percent of last season's snaps.
Last year, Washington agreed to take a $1 million pay cut for cap purposes, but he rejected the idea this season. The Bills could have saved $1.6 million against the cap if they cut him next year (he counts $5.3 million for '01), but Donahoe said the solution isn't to keep pushing money into future years.
The Bills will clearly miss Washington. He's a durable, tough, big man who has made 85 straight starts and played much of '99 with a pulled rib muscle.
BENGALS MULL TERRELL INJURY : Bengals trainer Paul Sparling has told the club the stress fracture in Michigan wide receiver David Terrell's foot can be resolved before training camp and wide receivers coach Steve Mooshagian is advising the draft room to remain interested.
Still, the Bengals have long been cautious of injuries and the discovery of Terrell's problem at last weekend's scouting combine means they will need to get some more answers before they take him with the fourth pick.
Sparling said a screw can be inserted into Terrell's foot and he'll be ready, "in plenty of time," for the July 20 start of training camp. Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel, said, "We just have to investigate more. You'd like to know how many games he played on it."
At the very least, the Bengals will like to do with Terrell what they will probably do with injured Texas defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and work him in Cincinnati's April 13 Open House. Or, as close as possible to the draft so they can answer the question.
But will he be able to work out? The one question about Terrell is his speed. He was set to prove he can run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at his March 16 workout, but if he can't prove it he may slip.
Mooshagian disputes it: "He looks fast enough on tape. He's a heck of a player. I wouldn't back away from him because of this."
MOVES: No. 2 tight end Marco Battaglia has some competition after the Bengals signed free agent Jason Gavadza, a first-year player in 2001.
The 6-3, 245-pound Gavadza, 25, was a sixth-round choice out of Kent State by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000. He was waived by Pittsburgh during training camp and spent the first two months of the season on the Tennessee practice squad before being signed to Carolina's 53-player roster on Oct. 31.
He was on Carolina's roster for three games and was active for one of those, but did not play. He was waived by Carolina Nov. 22, and spent time on the Green Bay and Baltimore practice squads before becoming a free agent after the season.
"You can look at him being with five teams as a negative," Lippincott said. "But I see it as a positive, too. Every time he got cut, someone saw something in him and the Super Bowl champions went and got him. He's going to compete for the No. 2 tight end job. He's got good speed, strength and pass catching ability."
Battaglia has one year left on his deal and No. 3 tight end Steve Bush is a free agent. . .
Cornerback Rodney Heath signed a three-year deal Tuesday believed to be in the $2 million range. . .Running back Michael Basnight, who never played last season after breaking his wrist in the intrasquad scrimmage, signed a one-year contract for $389,000 Wednesday. Basnight is a two-year exclusive rights free agent who rushed for five yards per his rookie 62 carries in 1999.