By GEOFF HOBSON
Even before the Corey Dillon contract talks stalled Monday at about 10:15 p.m., the Bengals Pro Bowl running back vowed he would not only sit out the first 10 games of this season but also the 2001 season if the club tagged him with the franchise player designation.
Despite the frustration, the sides are going to try again at 9:30 this morning even though it appears there is a wide difference in how each side perceives Dillon's market value.
"I'm not going to be used for one year," said Dillon during the long, hot 12-hour day at Spinney Field. "I'm not going to play for less than full market value. I just won't. I'll sit for two, three, five years, whatever. They want to sign everybody else on potential and I've got all the stats in the world and I've got to fight and claw. I just don't understand it. They've got to do what they've got to do. I'll see you when I see you."
Dillon then invoked the names of the club's last two number one picks in quarterback Akili Smith and wide receiver Peter Warrick and right tackle Willie Anderson, who just signed a six-year extension worth $30.6 million: "Let Will, Warrick and Akili run 16 zone check," said Dillon of one of the Bengals' running plays.
But the Bengals did go long a few times Monday in an effort to wrap up their running game for the next few seasons. In an unprecedented late night negotiating session that featured Bengals President Mike Brown joining club vice presidents Paul H. Brown and Katie Blackburn and chief financial officer Bill Scanlon, the club fired a variety of concepts at Dillon.
Working on no sleep after a redeye flight from Los Angeles, Dillon wanted to bolt at about 3 p.m. But the club tried to keep the talks alive by offering agent Marvin Demoff and Demoff associate and long-time Dillon friend Darryl Henry a two-year deal and a five-year pact. **
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Brown said Dillon turned down the two-year deal that Demoff recommended and, "it's hard when you think you have a deal and they say, 'No, we want to talk about another deal.' The Bengals also tried a slight upgrade from their April offer of five years at $18.3 million, but it was too incentive-based.
"They haven't changed much off their last proposal," Demoff said. "It wasn't exciting. I just think they value Corey differently than other teams would value him. . .I'm not optimistic. I'm not pessimistic."
Dillon dug in on his desire to be paid like an elite NFL back in the $5 million per year range. Still, the Bengals said they indicated they would go for a four-year extension that would average $4.3 million per year. That would be a $5 million average starting in 2001 after getting his tender offer of $1.371 million this year, and that could get some play today.
Dillon said a possible solution is a five-year deal in which he has the option after two years to leave. Brown didn't altogether rule it out, but Demoff doesn't think the club will go for it.
Yet a major stumbling block still appears to be upfront money. Dillon figures to be looking for more than $3.6 million, considering Anderson pulled in $7.5 million without going to a Pro Bowl.
"I think it's a good idea we stopped for the night," Blackburn said. "We threw a lot of numbers out there and a fresh start in the morning should help."
Dillon isn't too sure. At 3 p.m., he said, "This has just been a waste of time. I could have done this over the phone." By 6 p.m., he said, "It's all about respect. They still haven't showed me any. We're at the same old juncture. I'm not saying I'm the best (back), but I hold my own. I think I'm in the top class of running backs and they don't see it that way. They think one way and I'm thinking another. We're not seeing eye-to-eye. If this isn't done tonight, I'm not coming back."
The Bengals think a deal in the $3.6 million to $4.3 million per year range is fine for a player who has never finished higher than 11th in the NFL in combined rushing/receiving yards. Dillon is looking for money worthy of just the 11th man in history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.
"It's OK if you don't like me," Dillon said. "But you've got to respect me."
The Bengals think they're showing Dillon plenty of respect with their many efforts Monday. Dillon seemed impressed Mike Brown spent the last three hours in the negotiations after returning from a stadium event. He had also spent a good part of the afternoon crunching numbers.
When Dillon went on a lunchtime tour of Paul Brown Stadium with director of stadium operations Troy Blackburn and director of player development and community relations Eric Ball, Mike Brown smiled and patted Dillon on the shoulder and said,
"When you see the place, you'll want to play for a nickel."
The always emotional Dillon also always manages to be engaging. While he cooled his heals during the day's many breaks, he played video football games with a reporter (his '74 Dolphins were beating the '73 Bengals, 14-7, when he got called back into a meeting), went to Drive-Thru at Wendy's with another reporter (he ordered the No. 5 combo) and took a catnap in Blackburn's office. He also bantered with Bengal staffers with his shoeless feet up on the reception desk.
"They have to do what they have to do and I have to do what I have to do," Dillon said.
Mike Brown held out hope when asked if the team would still cut the one-year offer of $1.371 million to $553,000 on Thursday: "We will if there's no deal, but we still might get one."