BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals talked with John Jackson's agent today in a bid to lure the Woodward High School product back home as a backup for left tackle Rod Jones. But with wide receiver Carl Pickens still on the roster and the club still intent on securing disgruntled running back Corey Dillon to a big deal, the Bengals probably aren't looking to absorb more than a $1 million salary cap hit for Jackson.
"They're open to discussion and going to Cincinnati is an attractive option for John," said Richard Katz, the Cincinnati-based agent who brought Taft High's Vaughn Booker home to the Bengals earlier this year.
But the Dillon stalemate didn't soften today when agent Marvin Demoff spoke with Bengals vice president Katie Blackburn. Demoff said his client has no interest in a two-year deal, has no desire to get $1.37 million for this season if he reports to training camp on time, and will only back off his threat to sit out the first 10 games if he gets "a fair long-term contract."
"The way Corey sees it," Demoff said, "is they took care of Peter Warrick, Willie Anderson and Akili Smith and they didn't take care of him. If they don't want him for the long term, he doesn't want to be there."
The team has apparently all but agreed on numbers with third-round pick Ron Dugans, a wide receiver out of Florida State. But agent Jim Steiner said today he has philosophical differences with the language in the signing bonus and won't sign the "Carl Pickens Clause," in which the Bengals can get back all or some of the signing bonus if they believe he has violated his loyalty to the club.
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With Dugans and a couple of other receivers fighting tender hamstrings, the Bengals plan to dip into the college free agent pool Tuesday and sign Western Washington's Ben Clampitt if he passes the physical.
On the first day in their new offices at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals were paying more attention to unpacking than moving Pickens or shelving Dillon. Steve Zucker, Pickens' agent, spoke with Bengals President Mike Brown today, but there wasn't much to tell him.
Brown has made it clear he won't release Pickens until the NFL and the NFL Players Association agree that the NFLPA won't contest the Bengals' right to the franchise player tag if they release Pickens. Zucker is looking to get Pickens free as soon as possible, but the Bengals don't think there will be a resolution until after July 4. The Jets, the team most associated with Pickens' name, start camp the week of July 14.
"Obviously we'd like it done as soon as possible," Zucker said. "Carl's a football player and he wants to be there on time."
Will Dillon be on time? Maybe not, but the Bengals and Demoff are going to keep trying. Demoff will check with Blackburn later this week, and after he returns from his Fourth of July holiday on July 8 he's committed to working on deals for Dillon and Ravens Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden.
Asked if Dillon would play for just one season, Demoff said, "Not today."
Katz thinks Jackson could play for two or three more seasons even though his client turns 36 the last week of the season. The Bengals have historically shied away from signing 10-year veterans to multi-year contracts, but the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Jackson has started and played in all but one game during the past four seasons. Those first two seasons were with the Steelers and the last two with the Chargers.
"When he signed his deal in San Diego, the doctors told him he had the body of someone 25 years old," Katz said. "He knows that (the Bengals just gave Jones a three-year, $9 million deal), but I don't care what they call him when he comes in. They'll see what he can do when he gets on the field."
Steiner says Dugans won't take the field with the "Pickens' Clause," in his contract. The Bengals have fine-tuned the clause by placing loyalty language from the collective bargaining agreement and player contract to prevent a player like Pickens from blasting management and his head coach publicly in order to get cut.
"I have a problem taking what's in the CBA and the contract and applying it to the rider for the signing bonus," Steiner said. "Those things are already covered."
With help from the NFL management council, Brown re-tooled the clause in order to soothe the fears of Bengals such as Willie Anderson and Takeo Spikes after they expressed fears the language was too vague. So the club turned to words regarding loyalty and conduct already collectively bargained and feels it can stand up if the NFLPA follows up on its threat and files a grievance.
"It's better understood than it was when we started out with it," Brown said. "We asked them to agree to no more than what they agreed to when they signed their contract."
The agent for running back Curtis Keaton, the fourth-round pick, took the advice of the NFLPA when he signed his client's deal last week.
"We did it under protest," said Wesley Spencer. "If it gets overturned, I'm of the understanding it will be taken out of his contract."