Dillon says he's ready

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon verbally agreed to a one-year deal for $3 million this afternoon and the Bengals expect him to accompany the club to Atlanta Thursday.

"I'll be on the plane tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing my guys," said Dillon from Seattle. "It's all good. Let's get some Ws under our belts. That's what it's all about."

Paul H. Brown, the Bengals vice president who conducted the final negotiations with agent Marvin Demoff, said, "It's great to get him in and to have him under contract for this season."

The final element kicked into place when the Bengals agreed to give Dillon $1 million upfront. He'll get $700,000 now and $300,000 later in the season.

The negotiations for a long-term deal had been rocky. Demoff called them "bizarre." Both sides feared the damage from a June 12 summit in Cincinnati involving Dillon would never be repaired and that he would follow through on his threat to sit out the first 10 games.

Dillon balked at the Bengals' six-year, $26 million proposal that also had $4 million in incentives. He sought a contract in the $5 million per year range with about $8 million in the first year.

"The best thing is for Corey to have the best year he's ever had there and for the team to have the best success since he's been there," Demoff said. "And for him to show the Bengals he's worth that long-term deal he wanted. I really thought we would reach common ground on a long deal until the June meeting."

Dillon told bengals.com last week that if he came into play for a year, he would respond with a Pro Bowl-type season and wouldn't discuss next year, when the Bengals are unable to make him a franchise player free agent. He reiterated the point today.

"What's in the past is in the past," Dillon said. "Like I said. I'll let bygones be bygones. This was a tough time for both me and the team. Things happen like this and you have to go on. It makes you stronger as a person and good comes out of it. The good that came from this is we got a deal and I'm ready to play."

If Dillon didn't sign by Thursday the eve of the Bengals' second preseason game against the Falcons he wouldn't have been eligible for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against Cleveland in Paul Brown Stadium.

Dillon didn't like the deadline, but he held true to his word. He would play if the money was right.

The $3 million figure is more than twice the $1.37 million tender for Dillon's restricted free agent status, an unprecedented move in Bengals' annals. It would also be about $75,000 shy of the one-year deal for a running back who is a transition free agent, a status Dillon will probably reach next year and is based on the average of the NFL's top 10 salaried running backs.

The negotiations were the buzz of camp this morning.

"It would give us a serious lift when he comes in," said right tackle Willie Anderson. "I need my Pro Bowl running back. He's a proven back in this league and when he comes, it makes us a veteran offense."

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