Both sides to use system

BY GEOFF HOBSON

MOBILE, Ala. _ Corey Dillon said Monday he plans to use the system in his bid for a new contract.

Bengals President Mike Brown has no qualms about that or his new agent and Brown's old friend/adversary in Leigh Steinberg.

Brown also indicated Monday the club is starting from scratch in the negotiations with Steinberg as both sides refused to discuss the alleged eight-year, $60 million contract the club supposedly offered last month to his former agents.

Dillon said he didn't know of the offer if there was one. But there seems to be some agreement a six-year, $38 million deal in the Eddie George range was offered earlier in December but was spurned because the $10 million bonus was too low.

Yet that was last month, when the Bengals had room to spare under the 2000 salary cap, which was eventually gobbled by defensive tackle Oliver Gibson's four-year extension when Dillon didn't sign.

Now the Bengals are in the new year and looking at a slightly different scenario that won't kill a deal, but re-shapes it.

Once upon a time, Brown may have preferred going to the dentist rather than matching wits with Steinberg. But there have been too many deals done for that now.

"It's like going to get a second opinion from the doctor," Brown said of the agent change. "The first one didn't work out, so you have to try and make this one work."

Brown said he'll try to make it work before free agency. But he knows what the doctor ordered, too.

"Corey has every right to use the system and we certainly don't hold that against him," Brown said.

"We're going to use the system, too, if we can't sign him and get the right to match another offer by making him a transition free agent," Brown said. "Then we'll see what happens. We could match an offer, or the offer could be too much and we don't match, or he may not get an offer he likes. All kinds of things could happen, so we'll have to wait and see what develops."

Steinberg and Dillon said they will listen to what the Bengals say and won't foreclose signing with the club prior to the March 2 start of free agency.

But they also made it clear

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Dillon is in prime position to go on the market.

Brown said the relationship with Steinberg is no obstacle for him or the person doing the bulk of the negotiating, executive vice president Katie Blackburn.

Blackburn's first high-profile negotiating experience with the club came in the 1994 deal for Steinberg client Dan Wilkinson, the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft who secured a then rookie-record $14.4 million deal two weeks after the selection.

"He'll do his thing and we'll do our thing," Brown said. "He's got a job to do. He does it well. He's trying to get as much leverage as he can. We know Leigh. He knows us. We've done deals with him. That should help."

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