Jackson caps move

3-1-02, 8:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

INDIANAPOLIS _ Backup left tackle John Jackson, the 37-year-old sage of the Bengals, has thrown a key block for his teammates two months before minicamp.

The club chose not to exercise its $800,000 option on Jackson for this season, but approached him about a one-year deal that saves the Bengals $325,000 under the salary cap.

A new provision in the NFL's collective bargaining agreement allows a veteran earning the $750,000 minimum to make more money than his actual cap count, which is $450,000. Jackson opted to take the club's offer of $25,000 up front, thus clearing the room.

"John's feeling is that he's a part of this team and he wants to do whatever he can do to help the team," said Richard Katz, his agent who signed off on the deal Friday here at the scouting combine. "He feels

like if he can free up some more room under the cap so they can get some more players in here, he's going to do it."

Everyone is assuming 2002 will be Jackson's 15th and last year in the NFL, but he still looked spry when he replaced Richmond Webb at left tackle for the second half of last season's finale in Tennessee. Jackson, a Cincinnati prep product from Woodward High School who now lives in San Diego, has said his recent conversations with Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau have convinced him he can help finish what he hoped to help start when he joined the team before the 2000 training camp.

"John has helped us in a lot of different ways," said Duke Tobin, the club's director of pro/college personnel who did the deal.

"He's a good guy, a reliable guy," Tobin said. "He's great in the locker room because he's the kind of guy who shows younger players the way a guy should go about his job. This helps him. It helps us. He's a team guy."

National reports have put the Bengals at $8.2 million under the salary cap, which doesn't account for the estimated $3.5 million for their rookie pool.

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