BY GEOFF HOBSON
After visiting Paul Brown Stadium this afternoon, John Jackson, Hamilton County taxpayer, gave the thumbs up.
But the final call for John Jackson, the 12-year NFL left tackle, is still up in the air as he and the Bengals try to come to terms for a deal that will finally bring him home as a backup to Rod Jones.
"We're going to try and get something done," said Jackson after he toured the Bengals' practice facility and stadium with agent Richard Katz. "It's now a matter of coming to an agreement.
"The stadium is kind of awesome to me," said Jackson, who grew up in North Avondale and went to Woodward High School. "I've been around a lot of stadiums and this has to be the best I've seen around. It's nice to see where my (tax) money went."
But the big question is where the Bengals are going to put their money. Although running back Corey Dillon is threatening to sit out the first 10 games of the season, the Bengals are still projecting his long-term deal into their budget. Even with the imminent release of wide receiver Carl Pickens, the Bengals are scrambling trying to fit in Jackson as well as a cushion for grievances and injured players under the salary cap.
They would like having Jackson's character and experience, but indications are they don't want to cut into Dillon's nest egg. Jackson is just two years removed from signing the richest offensive line deal in history in San Diego after a decade with the Steelers that was dotted with Pro Bowls and playoff games. He was scheduled to make more than $3 million this season before the Chargers released him.
On the other side is the Bengals, who already gave Jones $9 million for three years earlier this year and they realize Jackson turns 36 the last week of the season. It remains to be seen if the sides can agree, although the club had to be impressed at how lean the 6-6, 300-pound Jackson appeared. Katz wanted everybody to get a good look at everybody else, so he urged Jackson Wednesday night to fly into Cincinnati from San Diego today.
"That doesn't bother me," said Jackson of the backup role. "It's a long season. People get nicked. If somebody goes down, I have no problem doing that."
Jackson knows he won't make that $3 million this year, but he's also a proud man who feels he can still start in this league. So it doesn't sound like he's going to take what he thinks is less so he can finish a very nice career at home.
"It would be nice (to finish at home), but I'm not jumping for joy right now," Jackson said. "If we can get things worked out, I'd get a little happy."
Jackson enjoyed his time with offensive line coach Paul Alexander as they talked about drop steps and kick moves in between viewing club boxes and luxury suites. After the tour, Jackson disappeared into Alexander's office for more talks.
But Jackson noticed the club seats. He already owns four of them and donated them to the John and Joan Jackson Foundation, a widely known charity he runs with his wife. The visit began when Katz and Jackson met with Bengals President Mike Brown, Jackson's first sit-down with Brown after they met a few times before games in Pittsburgh. Brown told him the Bengals have always respected him as a player and were glad he dropped by. That was good enough for now for Jackson and Katz.
"We've agreed to continue to talk," Katz said. "I wanted John to see the stadium and get a feel and go from there."