Deadlines loom

Posted: 7:25 a.m.

As in politics and the grimy making of laws, the sausage-making operation of signing rookie deals in the NFL needs deadlines. With the bulk of teams scheduled to report next week (the first Bengals practice is next Friday), there were still only eight first- and second-round players signed by the end of business Thursday.

No word from the agent for Bengals first-round pick Andre Smith this week. The Bengals have signed seven of their 11 picks with Smith, second-rounder Rey Maualuga and third-rounders Michael Johnson and Chase Coffman still out.

The NFL's third first-rounder is reportedly close to signing. *The Cleveland Plain-Dealer *reported Thursday night that center Alex Mack is going to ink his deal in the next 24 hours in a move that looks related to the start of the Browns rookie camp this Friday. The Cleveland veterans report a week from Friday.

A total of six second-rounders and 21 third-rounders were in the fold by the end of business Thursday, but no second-rounder has a deal above Maualuga at No. 6 in the round. The closest is New England defensive tackle Ron Brace at No. 8. According to ProFootballTalk.com, Falcons safety William Moore at No. 23 in the round got a 6.5 percent increase over last year's slot in a deal that netted $1.6 million guaranteed.

SLANTS AND SCREENS

» Bengals kicker Shayne Graham unofficially ends the offseason Friday when he hosts his Celebrity Race Off from 10-2 at the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati on U.S. Route 50 in Batavia, Ohio. Some current and former Bengals are expected.

» Coffman, one of the Bengals third-round picks, has a familiar face representing him. SuperAgent Tom Condon, a long-time guard for the Chiefs in the '70s and '80s, finished his career in Kansas City just before Coffman's father, Paul, arrived to play for the Chiefs.

» With the NFL Draft moving to a three-day format in 2010, the Bengals are staring at their first No. 1 weekday pick since Jason Buck in 1987. From 1988-94 the draft took place on Sunday and Monday and the last 15 have been on Saturday and Sunday.

You'd have to say the Bengals prefer Saturdays. They drafted five Pro Bowlers on that day (Willie Anderson in 1996, Corey Dillon in 1997, Takeo Spikes in 1998, Chad Johnson in 2001 and Carson Palmer in 2003.) Spikes made the Pro Bowl with Buffalo and Dillon was a second-rounder.

The Bengals took four Pro Bowlers on Sundays: Harold Green in 1990, Carl Pickens in 1992, and Rudi Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2001.

Next year the first round begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 22. The second and third rounds start at 6:30 p.m. Friday the 23rd with the last four rounds beginning Saturday morning the 24th.

"Moving the first round to prime time on Thursday night will make the first round of the draft available to fans on what is typically the most-watched night of television," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in the league's press release.

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