BY GEOFF HOBSON, GEORGETOWN, Ky. - Close associates of Corey Dillon said tonight if the Bengals offer him a one-year deal, the Pro Bowl running back wants numbers close to the $3.5 million contract Redskins running back Stephen Davis secured this week for this season.
With the club unable to use its franchise player designation on Dillon after next season and the sides unable to reach a long-tern deal, the Bengals plan to discuss a one-year proposal with agent Marvin Demoff Monday. But the club isn't hopeful if Dillon asks for the $3.5 million, which is the tender for a running back designated a franchise player.
"I just don't see us going that high," said Bengals vice president Paul Brown. "We'll talk to Marvin and see if we can work something out, but that sounds like too big of a number right now." The Bengals argue Dillon is a third-year restricted free agent this season while Davis is a fourth-year player designated Washington's franchise play after he rushed for 1,405 yards and 17 touchdowns. But before last season, Davis'best year was 567 rushing yards in 1997. Dillon has three straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Dillon is getting some advice to come into play this season for close to the restricted free agent tender of $1.37 million, figuring he'll be gone in 2001 because the Bengals won't match another team's offer under the guidelines of the transition tag.
But he apparently has no desire to play here any more and figures he'll be gone next year anyway even if he sits out the first 10 games. And Davis could be getting nearly as much as $5 million with easy incentives, league sources say.
* YEAST RISES WHILE DUGANS SITS:* Third-round pick Ron Dugans continues his holdout over "The Carl Pickens Clause," and while receivers coach Steve Mooshagian and Florida State teammate Peter Warrick don't think he can stay away from football too much longer, agent Jim Steiner doesn't agree.
Mooshagian spoke with Dugans a few days ago and said the player isn't bitter.
"He's concerned about his future if he signs it and wonders if he has to sign it again if he should go to another team," Mooshagian said. "And he's wondering if Peter doesn't have it in his contract, why should he? I told him first-round contracts are different than all the rest. I'm just hoping he gets in because he's already two practices behind."
Dugans is fighting for the third-receiver spot with second-year players Craig Yeast and Damon Griffin, and was the odds-on favorite to back up Warrick at the split end spot. Now the 160-pound Yeast has used the opportunity to weigh in during the first two practices.
"He's the most improved receiver coming back from last year," Mooshagian said. "He's doing a lot of things. He's catching the ball. He's focused. He's done great."
Trace it all back to his injured ankle that got rolled on about a year ago at this time when an offensive lineman nicked him. Yeast could never run well all year, despite running back two of his ten punt returns for touchdowns.
"I worked on my ankles, trying to make both of them stronger," Yeast said. "And they feel stronger than they did a year ago. I want them loose, strong, mobile. I want to be able to run fast because that's my game. I'm just trying to get a little better every day."
The main thing he's working on: "Working against bump-and-run and releasing off the line."
JACKSON EXPECTED:Backup left tackle John Jackson, the newest Bengal, is expected here at noon Sunday after tonight's magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam for his back and Sunday morning's physical. Jackson sprained his back last year, but agent Richard Katz expects him to pass.
O'DWYER TO MISS OPENER: GEORGETOWN, Ky.- Bengals left guard Matt O'Dwyer's two-game suspension has been lowered to one for his arrest following a scuffle with police outside a New York bar last year. O'Dwyer, who had no comment after tonight's practice, had appealed to the NFL and will now miss only the Sept. 10 opener against the Browns.
"I think the league has to be heard on these matters," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "We can't ignore some of the stuff that happens in this league without indicating it's wrong. It's been addressed as far as we're concerned. He'll take his hit and we move on."
Brown didn't want to compare O'Dwyer's NFL punishment to the Ray Lewis situation. Lewis, Baltimore's Pro Bowl middle linebacker, apparently won't be suspended after being involved in an altercation that resulted in two murders.