3-12-02, 11:50 p.m. Updated:
3-13-02, 8:00 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals remain interested in re-signing their top two free agents, but defensive end Reinard Wilson and cornerback Artrell Hawkins continue to tour other teams.
After a stop in Minnesota, Wilson visited the defense-starved Colts Wednesday. Also Wednesday, Hawkins, a Johnstown, Pa., product, headed to the hometown Steelers for Thursday's meeting and may be headed for an interview in Oakland.
Indications are the Bengals are stepping up their efforts to lock up their first free agent of the season. On Tuesday, Jim Lippincott, the club's director of pro/college personnel, gave Jaguars left defensive end Renaldo Wynn an offer.
Wilson, coming off a career-high nine sacks, had fruitful talks with Vikings head coach Mike Tice and the Colts' staff during his visits, said David Levine, Wilson's agent. He said his client got encouraging news
from both camps. The Vikings see Wilson as a candidate to play all three downs at right end. Keith McKenzie is also in the mix, but the Vikes are apparently first trying to sign a linebacker and at least one other position before settling on a right end.
Levine said the Colts told Wilson they consider him the best defensive end left on the market, but he declined to say if Minnesota or Indy offered a contract.
Wilson may get a better grip on his fate in Indy during the next few days. The Colts have until Friday to reach a long-term deal with their franchise free-agent, tackle Tarik Glenn. The Colts have to do some squeezing because ESPN.com reports they have a little less than $4 million to spend under the salary cap, which is about what their rookie pool is.
The Bengals would like to re-sign Wilson as a pass rusher with an accompanying salary, but he sees himself as a more lucrative three-down performer. Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn talked to Levine Tuesday as the club continues to keep in touch, but Levine told her they still want to exhaust all options.
The Colts' defense is under construction by new head coach Tony Dungy. Indy allowed a NFL-high 486 points with the third-worst total defense in the land.
"Reinard fits them in the sense that Dungy likes quick ends somewhere between 258 to 261 pounds as opposed to bulk," Levine said, "He was very quick last year at 270. The thing with free agency is you could have a deal tomorrow or next week. When we get that number, we'll pull the string."
Peter Schaffer, Wynn's agent, said Tuesday that the Bengals' offer is "below the bar." The Packers also talked to Wynn Tuesday and he could be headed to Denver for a visit, but the sides have agreed to keep an eye on each other. Word late Wednesday was the Redskins may also be getting involved in the Wynn derby.
Levy made it known Tuesday that Harris isn't going to be cheap. He sees him in the market with the recent signings of Eric Warfield and Aaron Beasley that were in the $3-4 million per year range.
The Bengals allowed that they could sign both Harris and Hawkins, considering their other starting cornerback, Rodney Heath, is in the middle of a questionable rehab from a severe torn hamstring.