5-14-01, 11:35 p.m.
Updated: 5-15-01, 5:35 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
For the next three seasons, the Bengals' Corey Dillon is scheduled to be the highest paid running back in the National Football League at more than $6 million per year.
CBS SportsLine reported Tuesday that Dillon's five-year deal is worth $26 milion with a $10.5 million signing bonus that is the third highest ever given a running back, plus $2.3 million in salary this year. He makes $18.65 million in the next three years and all years have a $100,000 workout bonus.
In his first interview since signing the richest deal in Bengals' history, Dillon daydreamed Monday night about the future.
He wants to start a charitable foundation with the early indication an emphasis on youth programs.
The foundation is to be based in Cincinnati, just like him. He wants to buy a home here, check out the endorsement market, and would love one day to be identified with Cincinnati like Anthony Munoz and Boomer Esiason are now.
"With the contract they just gave me," Dillon said, " there's no excuse not to be here."
Short-terms plans? They are just as sunny.
There is Tuesday's first appearance at the veteran voluntary workouts, when he knows he'll be sore and tired. He said so as he walked out of Monday night's two-hour introductory playbook session with running backs coach Jim Anderson that didn't break until 7:30 p.m.
"Teams are going to have to play us honest now," Dillon said after loving the array of three-receiver sets. "I think they will have to spread out. Defenses won't be able to crowd the middle. They'll have to back up and, man, you know that's good for me."
But go back to his first two seasons, when Dillon ran in anger of the NFL scouts and coaches. Then during the last two years, when he ran for the love of God.
Which is why he thinks he didn't get the big paycheck until now.
"I always considered myself a first-rounder even though I got gypped out of it," said Dillon, recalling that awful day he fell to the second round in the 1997 draft because of juvenile legal problems. "But the Lord is good. To me, this is kind of a makeup call. But I'm glad it happened the way it happened.
"I'm glad I didn't get the money up front," Dillon said. "I learned a lot in these four years. At the time, I probably wasn't mature enough to handle it properly. Who knows what would have happened at 21, 22 years old coming out of college? I could have blown it. I could have done certain things. Maybe. Maybe not. But I've got a more mature mindset now."
But don't get Dillon wrong. He didn't want a fake deal with inflated money, so he won't be a phony about it. He expressed pride in the deal and his resolve to protect the money for his daughter and her heirs.
"It's up to old Pops to make sure nothing happens to it," Dillon said.
He's proud the Bengals compared him to Eddie George, the Titans' running back he admires deeply. He's proud the Bengals gave him more in the first year ($12.9 million) than George ($10.5 million), and more in
the first three years ($18.65 million) than George ($17.6 million), and nearly the same (George gets $27 million) for five years.
Dillon's deal stops at $26 million. George's goes on for two more years at about $7 million per year. In the last two years of his contract, if Dillon doesn't gain 1,100 yards in two of the previous three seasons, $250,000 gets lopped off his salary. That's the key number. He's rushed for at least 1,129 yards in his four seasons.
"Maybe he makes it, maybe he doesn't," said Dillon of George's final two seasons. "Put it this way. I think Eddie's got a great deal. You have to say Eddie and I both have great deals. I didn't want the best deal. I wanted what was fair and I got exactly what I wanted."
Dillon sees himself in a dead heat with George and for those who wonder at the number, he offers this.
"But (people) have to understand that it's not padded. There are no incentives," Dillon said. " This is real money. I looked at everyone's contract from Eddie on down. Emmitt (Smith), Marshall (Faulk), Stephen Davis. It's not back loaded in the later years. Some guys are going to make $12, 13 million. That's money they'll never see. Why try to make everything look good? I want my money to be real and my contract to be real. There's no fake years and over the first three years I'm the highest paid back in the game and I'm proud of it."
Dillon also takes certain pride knowing he made it all happen with the Sixth of May Speech. That's when he challenged the Bengals – and to a certain extent agent David Dunn – to get a deal by going into a room the next Friday and not coming out until it was Dunn.
He signed the deal Friday, but he thinks he had a little help.
"At first, I don't know what made me do it," Dillon said of the challenge. "I didn't really know what the outcome would be. But something told me. It was spiritual. 'Hey, it's time.' The message was sent down. I just delivered it."
Dillon let Dunn and Joby Branion do the face-to-face talking last Thursday with Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn. But when it got close and the talks moved to the phone in the evening, "I was there, encouraging my guys. You know how it is. Both sides are trying to get that last ounce. I knew it would get done at that point. We both had come so far we were probably thinking we would never get this close again."
There had been tough times. Dillon once said he'd rather flip burgers than play here. He once stood up the club in a negotiating session by staying in a car in the parking lot. He once fired an agent who went public blasting Dillon for turning down a deal that Dillon says he didn't know about.
But last week, "they compromised, I compromised. They gave a little up front. I gave a little in the back years. Both sides did a good job and worked hard."
Dillon recalled how Bengals President Mike Brown offered some financial advice Friday night after he signed the deal. And how he listened.
"He told me to get some financial advisers and he emphasized to me to listen to them and do what they say," Dillon said. "I want to set it up so my daughter (2 1/2-year-old Cameron ) knows exactly how to handle it so she can pass it on to her kids."
Dillon always liked the idea of his own foundation, but like he said, until now, "I didn't have that kind of money or resources. I was a little short. Now I've got the flexibility."
He should also have the visibility. While Dillon prides himself on being a low-profile-blue-collar-T-shirt kind of guy, he hopes to get into the local endorsement game now. He has had the sense the locals have been a tad reluctant.
"That was a question, too. I was kind of iffy," Dillon said. "Every year it's like, 'Corey's on the verge of leaving and it's always something.' I think now the endorsement stuff could start up now that I'm going to be here for a length of time.
"I see a guy like Anthony doing all those commercials and I say, 'Man, he does a great job.' Both he and Boomer have done so much for the city. But it takes a long time to build that up."
Where will the new homestead be? He lives in Blue Ash. He's taken with Indian Hill and laughed when asked about the odds of becoming Mike Brown's neighbor. He also mentioned West Chester.
"There are a lot of great places around here," Dillon said. "I'm really comfortable with the Blue Ash-Montgomery area."
After these last four years, settling in should be the easy part.