Dillon/Warrick

By GEOFF HOBSON **

Bengals Pitch to Dillon

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Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon is reportedly upset with the Bengals' five-year, $18.3 million offer because it's not the magic $5 million per year figure for the league's elite backs. But the Bengals believe it's consistent with what Dillon has accomplished during his three seasons in the NFL.

In their $3.6 million per year proposal to Dillon's agent, Marvin Demoff, the Bengals say they believe Dillon is a consistent and valued performer. But they hesitate to put him in the top tier of backs. He has finished in the NFL's top ten in rushing twice -- as a rookie when he was ninth and last year when he was 10th -- and has never finished above 13th in combined rushing and receiving yardage during his three seasons.

The Bengals looked at what running backs did in the season before they signed new deals, putting their own value on those contracts. They believe some of those deals have big enough numbers in the later years that the player will never see it or they will be voided out. Such as Tampa Bay running back Mike Alstott's $2 million roster bonus and $6.2 million salary in 2003, or Marshall Faulk's years from 2003 to 2005 that are voided at the player's option.

Faulk ($4.7 million average), was sixth in NFL rushing and led the NFL in combined yardage in 1998. The Cowboys' Emmitt Smith ($5.3 million) led the league in both in 1995. Green Bay's Dorsey Levens ($5 million per year), was fourth in rushing and third in combined yardage in 1997, and the Vikings' Robert Smith was seventh in rushing and ninth combined in 1997.

The Jets' Curtis Martin makes $5.4 million a year after finishing in the NFL's top 10 rushers each of the past three seasons, including runner-up to Edgerrin James this past year. In '99, Dillon finished 13th in combined yards in a year the league was without Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Anderson, Garrison Hearst and Robert Edwards, all top-15 performers in '98.

The Lions didn't help the Bengals when they signed Jacksonville's James Stewart to $5 million per year during the offseason even though he was 17th in rushing last year. The Bengals argue that's an unrestricted free agent deal and that Dillon is restricted. The Eagles didn't help Dillon when they signed Duce Staley before this season to a deal averaging $2.3 million. Staley went on to outgain Dillon by 73 rushing yards and four receiving yards.

In fact, the Bengals use Staley, Alstott and Seattle's Ricky Watters as measuring sticks after Dillon rushed for 1,200 yards and caught 290. Like Dillon, Staley is a fourth-year player, Alstott is in his fifth year and Watters is in his 10th. Watters rushed for 1,210 yards, caught 387 and makes $3.3 million per year. Alstott ran for 949, caught 239 and makes $3.5 million.

Bengals President Mike Brown had no comment on the offer today, but he indicated there is room to negotiate. Dillon is also reportedly upset that Brown has not called him. Club vice president Paul H. Brown is doing the deal and spoke with Dillon Monday night.

"I have high regard for Corey," Mike Brown said. "I don't send down the plays to the coach, either. I've assigned this deal to Paul."

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NIXON's THE ONE

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Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Norm Nixon informed the Bengals today he is the agent for first-round draft pick Peter Warrick and will be in town Friday to meet with club officials on the first day of minicamp. After eight years of representing entertainers and NBA players, Nixon is getting his highest-profile NFL player with the fourth overall pick in this year's draft.

SFX Sports, the New York firm Warrick severed ties with last week, was aware Warrick sealed the deal with Nixon.

"Peter's from a small town and I think he'll get attention that my agency could provide," Nixon said from his California office. "We're not a big conglomerate."

Nixon isn't coming to town to negotiate, although he says he has looked at the deal that Colts running back Edgerrin James signed in the fourth spot last year and says, "I'm looking to get him a great deal. Pete's a guy that returns punts, so there's more elements to his game."

Nixon says he wants to take Warrick on a tour of Cincinnati on Friday and help get him settled as soon as possible.

"I'm a former athlete, so I'm going at it from the perspective, 'Let's get him a contract. Let's get him acclimated so when it's the preseason, he's not trying to find an apartment,' " Nixon said.

Nixon, Magic Johnson's running mate on the world-champion Lakers of the 1980s, says he has cut deals with record companies and studios. He has also done a lot of work for his wife, television star Debbie Allen. But he said it wasn't the Hollywood allure that sold Warrick.

"That wasn't a selling point with me," Nixon said. "I can do a dog-and-pony show with the best of anyone, but I don't see myself as a star agent. I'm just trying to get the best deal in the market for my client."

Nixon laughed when asked if he ever held out.

"One year," he said. "But it was with the Clippers ... I'm not going to speculate on holdouts. I'm not going in with any negativity."

Warrick couldn't be reached for comment.

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