Gap as big as Washington

3-6-01 BY GEOFF HOBSON

Ted Washington got snowed in on a day his agent and the Bengals ran into a blizzard of differences.

Angelo Wright, Washington's agent, said the club offered his client a two-year deal nowhere near what he feels is the $5 million-per-year neighborhood for a Pro Bowl defensive lineman known as one of the NFL's best run stuffers.

"I think they're stalling to see if they can sign Tony Williams," said Wright of the 25-year-old Viking tackle visiting Cincinnati Tuesday. "Which is fine. They can do what they want with their money. But they're not going to get a guy like Ted who is a marquee player. Here's a guy coming off the Pro Bowl. He's not going to play for less than what the guys next to him got not going to the Pro Bowl."

Wright wouldn't divulge his proposal, but it figures to be in the $5 million per year range. Wright said he crafted the offer off the Bengals' own salary structure for defensive linemen as well as NFL free agency, which means Jon Randle's five-year, $25 million deal in Seattle with $5 million to sign.

The Bengals had no comment.

Wright indicated Washington was offered less than the $3 million per year rated by tackle Oliver Gibson and end John Copeland and comparable to end Vaughn Booker's $2.2 million per year.

"We'll see what happens (Tuesday)," Wright said. "But Ted can't be very happy having to stay over an extra night and not coming close to a deal."

Washington plans to leave Tuesday morning, but he made a 370-pound statement Monday about his willingness to make Cincinnati his home for the next four years or so.

"I'm very impressed," said Washington at the end of his visit to Paul Brown Stadium Monday afternoon. "I've been in the league 10 years and after hearing all the negative stuff, I don't see it. I don't know where these guys are getting it. From the coaches, the players, the city itself, I'm comfortable here.

"I hope this is my last visit," said Washington, a University of Louisville product. "The only thing left to do is to get a contract."

But the Bengals aren't prepared to give Washington a Randle-type deal, which is similar to the quarterback deal Elvis Grbac neared in Baltimore. And age has a lot to do with it.

History was made when Washington, at the end of an exhaustive physical, became the first free-agent to get into the magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI) at PBS.

Washington turns 33 next month and came to town with published reports saying he has arthritis in one of his ankles. But the Bengals realize that hasn't stopped him from being a major reason the Bills are a perennial top ten defensive team that has finished no lower than sixth against the run the last three years.

The Bengals traditionally give players who are that age one- or two-year deals. But Washington is looking to make this his final contract.

"Wherever we go, we want it to be the last stop of his career," Wright said. "We're looking at a three- to four-year deal. This is a guy still playing at a Pro Bowl caliber."

The Bengals plan to host on Tuesday Williams, a four-year player who turns 26 just before training camp. Jimmy Sexton, Williams' agent, has already had intensive talks with the Bengals and they may try to get something done there Tuesday. There could be a deadline with Williams headed to Cleveland for a visit in the afternoon. Williams is just 290 pounds, but the Bengals like his athleticism and ability to pass rush on third down.

But Washington enjoyed his dinner enough Sunday night at The Precinct

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with defensive line coach Tim Krumrie and Booker that he said, "I'll be back."

There may jokes about Washington's ample 6-5 frame, but he wears his size solidly. He's started 85 straight games, plays hurt, and lets other make plays while he does the dirty work.

"I would free up every linebacker that plays behind me," Washington said when asked what he brings to the Bengals. "Leadership. Leading by example. Watching me play. That's why I think we had a great defense in Buffalo. . .I'd like playing with the linebackers they have and the defensive linemen they have. I'd like to get things rolling and put the Bengals back on the map where they belong, in the playoffs and Super Bowl."

Washington has no bitterness to a Buffalo club that decided not to take his $7.66 million salary cap hit after giving receiver Eric Moulds about $10 million per year.

But he appeared displeased when told new Bills General Manager Tom Donahoe didn't want to pay a player who played 52 percent of the downs that much money.

"Oh, did he make that comment?" Washington asked. "He needs to go down the list of all the guys (on the defense), all the linebackers, some of the guys that came off the field when I came off the field. There were no 80 percent players on that team. You can't pick out one player. On that 52 percent, I got the job done."

Washington compared coming to the Bengals to his decision to attend Louisville coming out of Tampa, Fla.

"I've seen them on tape and they're only a few players away from being a good playoff team, a championship defense," Washington said. "When I got to Louisville, they weren't known for football back in the day. I chose that over every school in Florida and we ended up winning the Fiesta Bowl (his senior season)."

Head coach Dick LeBeau said teaming Washington with Gibson in the middle would drive the Bengals' defense to the top of the league after two seasons their yards per rush average has been in the top 10.

He also thinks Washington would boost sales.

"I think his name would add a presence in our future negotiations with other free agents," LeBeau said. "He's a high-profile player well known throughout the league."

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