3-25-02, 6:20 p.m.
3-26-02, 12:30 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Before the Bengals zeroed in on a deal with Colts cornerback Jeff Burris Monday, they continued their drive to add a starting cornerback through free agency when they hosted former No. 1 draft pick Tom Knight of the Cardinals at Paul Brown Stadium.
The AFC North race also took a turn Monday when Chiefs kicker Todd Peterson and his 80 percent field-goal percentage signed on with the Steelers for the next four seasons. He replaces the troubled Kris Brown after Brown signed on with the Texans and Pittsburgh decided not to match Houston's offer. Peterson was the Bengals' first free-agent visitor three weeks ago and he expressed a strong desire to play in Cincinnati.
But despite his 88.6-percent career accuracy inside the 40-yard line (compared to Bengals kicker Neil Rackers' 71 percent), the Bengals worried about the 32-year-old Peterson's ability to kick off.
"You have to have someone who can do double duty and it's either your punter or place kicker," said Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel.
The Bengals weren't prepared to give Peterson much more than the $670,000 minimum, but the Steelers gave him an average of nearly $1 million per year with a $600,000 bonus in a total package of $3.9 million, according to ESPN.com
The Bengals, who spent the 14th-most money in the NFL last season
are trying to finish off their free-agent hunt for this offseason with deals for a veteran corner and re-signing sack leader Reinard Wilson.
Wilson wants to be with a team by the end of the week, but his agent, David Levine, didn't talk to the Bengals Monday.
The 6-0, 195-pound Knight, the ninth pick in the 1997 draft out of Iowa, has missed more than a full season (17 games) with an assortment of injuries. A nagging hamstring problem cost him eight this past season in Arizona, where the Cards have decided to start over at cornerback without last year's starters in Knight and Corey Chavous.
But Knight, 27, is a bright, personable sort who has a sterling reputation off the field. His main knock besides his inability to stay on the field is playing the ball because he has just three career interceptions.
Still, the Bengals see tremendous upside in Knight because of his age, character, athleticism and experience of 52 NFL starts.
"It obviously would be a good fit for me," Knight said. "They need experience and I can give them that."
Knight has visited the Raiders and he may check out the Patriots, as well as the Broncos.
According to ESPN.com, the Bengals, with a payroll of $68.4 million, outspent both Super Bowl teams in 2001, as well as one of the teams in their division, Baltimore, that made the playoffs. Money appeared not to be that much of a deciding factor. Of the 13 teams that outspent the Bengals, they split with three of them (Steelers, Browns, Titans), and lost in the game's last quarter to Tampa Bay and the Jets. The Bears (24-0) and the Chargers (28-14) did have decisive victories.