Bengals zero in on QB

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals' big push to sign Pro Bowl quarterback Elvis Grbac ended Monday night, but his agent didn't stop pushing until Tuesday.

While Jim Steiner urged the Bengals to get back into negotiations, Cincinnati spent the day focused on Denver backup quarterback Gus Frerotte and may have an answer from him as soon as Wednesday morning after he meets with his family.

After the Bengals pulled out of the escalating Grbac negotiations with the Ravens, agent Jim Steiner called the club Monday night and Tuesday morning in an attempt to revive their interest.

But the Bengals stuck to the belief they couldn't go any higher and still get several more quality free agents. So they watched Grbac sign a five-year, $30 million deal in Baltimore Tuesday afternoon even though Steiner said the Bengals had "millions" more on the table in the first two years of the contract.

Grbac is assured of making $7 million if he plays in the first two years in Baltimore. After the second year, the Ravens must give him the $6 million of the $11 million signing bonus in order to trigger the final three years of the contract.

Steiner acknowledged the Bengals' proposal dwarfed the Ravens' bid in the first two years.

"That's where the biggest impact in Cincinnati's offer was. The first two years," Steiner said. "But once the contract stretched out, it became pretty similar."

"I think the Bengals thought they were being used for leverage, but they were in serious consideration and under serious consideration by Elvis," Steiner said.

"They know they had to make a much stronger offer (than Baltimore) and they

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did. The Bengals were professional about the whole thing. They were straight forward. Their best chance to shock the world and give legitimacy to their program right away was to sign Elvis Grbac. They did all the right things, but it just wasn't enough to pass up being with a team that had won the Super Bowl."

Bengals director of business development Troy Blackburn, the club's negotiator for a quarterback, wouldn't divulge numbers of negotiations that bubbled Monday after Steiner's visit to Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.

"Elvis is a fine player and we put a high value on him," Blackburn said. "But (Monday night), at that point, we decided a deal with Elvis would prevent us from getting more quality players."

Blackburn dined Tuesday night with Carl Lopez, the agent for Seattle quarterback Jon Kitna. Kitna spent the night with his wife meeting Bengals' coaches in preparation for Wednesday's trip to the stadium.

And now that Trent Dilfer has lost his spot in Baltimore, he indicated interest in a conference call Tuesday with Bengals' coaches.

Frerotte returned from Miami Tuesday, where the Dolphins appeared to have little interest. The Broncos want him to return, but only as a backup to Brian Griese.

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