BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon and high-powered NFL agent Leigh Steinberg said Monday they are a team with the top priority of giving Dillon the chance to play on a winner.
Although they didn't rule out re-signing with the Bengals before free agency starts March 2, Steinberg calls Dillon's shot at the open market "unprecedented," and says his client, "is very determined to go through free agency."
Meanwhile, Dillon indicated he's thinking of a cutting-edge contract when he said of Steinberg, "he's known for doing break-through business deals in a classy way."
If Dillon wants to see how aggressively the Bengals pursure other free agents in the effort to bounce back from three seasons at 11-39, he can't sign with the club before March 2.
But Steinberg and Dillon wouldn't comment on what or if the Bengals have to show Dillon anything in the way of coaching hires or signings.
"I'm not going to define it," Steinberg said. "Until March 2, the Bengals are the only team he can talk to and he won't foreclose them. We will be talking to the Bengals in the next week or so."
Dillon said the Bengals "are doing some good things," as they head into next season. But he also said, "This isn't a financial issue for me."
Steinberg huddled with Dillon this past weekend at the super agent's Newport Beach, Calif., office and signed a deal giving Dillon his third representative since November.
Steinberg wouldn't say if the eight-year, $60 million offer Dillon's former agents say he turned down from the Bengals last month would be good enough to keep him in Cincinnati.
But Steinberg noted Dillon's date of termination of agents David Levine and Jim Sims was Dec. 30 and he found it "curious and strange," that the agents went public with the numbers last week.
Dillon hinted Monday he might go to the NFL Players Association about a grievance against Levine and Sims, "if things keep coming out publicly."
Steinberg reiterated what Dillon said last week. That the player wasn't aware of an eight-year, $60 million offer.
And after Steinberg and Dillon emerged from their weekend strategy session, free agency is clearly on their minds.
"I don't think there's ever been a player as high profile who has arrived at such a young age on the market," Steinberg said.