BY GEOFF HOBSON - GEORGETOWN, Ky.
Rookie wide receiver Ron Dugans told the Bengals today he will sign "The Carl Pickens Clause," and hopes to be here in time for the afternoon workout at Georgetown College. Dugans, the club's third-round draft pick, had balked at signing his deal even though he had agreed on the money a month ago.
But Dugans is concerned about the signing bonus, where the Bengals have transferred loyalty language from the collective bargaining agreement and the standard player contract. Jim Steiner, Dugans' agent, has argued the discipline issues are already addressed without being put in the bonus.
It's believed to be a three-year deal with a $492,000 signing bonus and minimum salaries.
"Although I disagree with the clause, I can't hurt my client by fighting it," Steiner said. "And it would hurt him if this continued and I'm not going to do that."
Steiner told Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel, that he planned to attach a letter to the contract protesting the clause. The agents for fourth-rounder Curtis Keaton, fifth-rounder Robert Bean and sixth-rounder Neil Rackers also protested the contracts and the NFL Players Association expects to put the clause on trial at some point.
"I'm not worried about falling too far behind. I've been reading the playbook and running," said Dugans Monday. "I haven't been catching every day, but you can never be in enough good shape."
Dugans said it doesn't bother him that his friend and college teammate Peter Warrick doesn't have the clause because, "he's got other things in his contract and he's a first-rounder."
While Dugans sat over a war of words, he brightened when told he would be wearing the jersey of the team's all-time leading receiver in Pickens' No. 81.
"I'm ready to fill big shoes. I'll be ready when I come," Dugans said. "It's just business. People have to understand that. There's nothing personal. The big thing will be getting back with the team and coming together."
Second-year player Craig Yeast has emerged as the leading candidate for the third receiver spot in the three-wide set. Dugans had been pencilled in there, as well as backing up Warrick at the X receiver spot. The 160-pound Yeast could be too small for X, but Coslet isn't so sure after coaching 180-pound Terance Mathis with the Jets. Coslet likes big receivers there because they end up blocking more safeties than the flanker.
"(Yeast) is like Warrick because his game starts after he catches the ball," Coslet said.
** VOID SHOWDOWN:
**Bengals President Mike Brown is still flogging himself for giving voidable years in the contracts for the Nos. 1 picks in the 1994 and 1995 drafts in Dan Wilkinson and Ki-Jana Carter. So his resolve to draw a line in the sand about never giving voidable years to picks below the first round could bury the team and second-rounder Mark Roman in a long holdout. The problem is that Roman, the third pick in the round, is grouped with players who have voidable years, the concept of shortening long contracts for the purpose of fitting in signing bonuses and first-year salaries under the rookie pool.
According to salary figures unearthed by cbssportsline.com, Saints defensive end Daren Howard, the second pick, got $1.43 million to sign for an average of $796,000 that voids in the fifth year. San Francisco defensive end John Engelberger, the pick after Roman, got $1.315 million to sign for an average of $789,500 in a deal that voids after four years. The one that really hurts the Bengals is the next one, the fifth pick in the round. Roman shares agent Joel Segal with Philadelphia receiver Todd Pinkston and Segal got from the Eagles $1.3 million to sign and a voidable fifth in a deal averaging $791,000.
Since the Bengals seek a straight four-year deal, they probably can't reach the bonus and average of those around Roman with their rookie pool.
NO DILLON TALKS:The Bengals and Marvin Demoff, the agent for Corey Dillon, didn't talk today. When they do, it figures to be a short conversation about a one-year deal. There's no way the Bengals are going to pay him a Stephen Davis-like number for just this year. Davis, the Redskins' Pro Bowler, can reportedly make as much as $5 million for 2000.
GRAY CORNERED.The Bengals made Brian Gray official on their depth chart today. Gray, a rookie free agent projected as a free safety out of BYU, is now the fourth right cornerback behind Artrell Hawkins, Roman, and Roosevelt Blackmon. The 6-1 Gray has opened eyes with his strength in press coverage.
"When Brian Gray locks in on bump-and-run, the receivers aren't going anywhere," Coslet said. "He's got some technique things to work on, but that was a real good pickup for us."
Gray, who had five interceptions in 25 starts at left cornerback for BYU at about 220 pounds, has some good reasons why he likes to press: "They taught me at (El Camino Junior College) I guess because I had the height, long arms and ability to run with the little guys. I'm pretty quick for my size and now I'm at 200 pounds. I feel a lot quicker and more comfortabe."
By the way, secondary coach Ray Horton says even if Roman were here, Rodney Heath would be the third and nickel corner and Roman would be fourth.
* THIS and THAT:*The Bengals had their first two-a-day of training camp today and defensive end Reinard Wilson tipped a pass in each and intercepted one of them. That may not have happened in a game because the offensive linemen aren't allowed to cut block now, but the Bengals are pleased Wilson is playing with more intensity and seems happier at his college position after struggling at outside linebacker for the first three seasons of his career. . .
Coslet doesn't want to drop back both Yeast and Warrick on punt returns. It could happen only if they get an erratic punter or a punter trying to drop one inside the 20-yard line. . .
Coslet said left outside linebacker Steve Foley is in superb shape. "He blew the other linebackers away in conditioning (Sunday) by 30 yards. . .If he plays the technique properly, I don't know if there's any tight end in the league that can consistently block him." . . .Tight end Damian Vaughn, the Miami of Ohio product who has yet to play a down in two years, is being called "World," after catching the most passes by a tight end in the World League for the Barcelona Dragons. But he's still a longshot to make the roster and he's used up his 32 games on the practice squad. "He's got more confidence. I think he was a little intimidated, but not now."
* INJURY UPDATE:*