4-06-01, 9:00 p.m.
Updated: 4-07-01, 12:20 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau didn't get Levon Kirkland, but he was more than pleased to end up securing another one of his Steelers Friday night.
The agent for Pittsburgh defensive end Kevin Henry said his client had agreed to terms with the Bengals and is headed for a reunion with LeBeau, the former Steelers defensive coordinator.
At the urging of LeBeau, the Bengals pursued the 6-4, 285-pound Henry. He turns 33 midway through the season and is primarily a run player who has one sack the past two seasons.
"He's just a good, hard-nosed football player who played a lot on those pretty good defenses we had in Pittsburgh," said LeBeau of the NFL's No. 1 unit.
"He can run, he's never on the ground, he's been extremely durable and he makes us a better defense," LeBeau said. "He's a lot like (defensive tackle) Oliver Gibson who came off that same defense, and he's turned out to be a great pickup. I think we've got another like that in this guy."
LeBeau likes Henry's versatility at playing both end and tackle, as can the Bengals' incumbent starting ends John Copeland and Vaughn Booker.
LeBeau envisions moving Booker to the end spot away from the tight end and putting Henry on the side of the tight end.
Copeland, moving back to end from tackle this season, had been ticketed to play away from the tight end. But LeBeau isn't setting anything in stone. He promises only a heated training camp.
"Competition makes you better," LeBeau said.
"And we certainly are going to have plenty of that."
Henry has spent his eight-year career in Pittsburgh since the Steelers took him in the fourth round of the 1993 NFL Draft and has started the past three seasons at right end.
Agent Gil Thompson wouldn't divulge terms and the Bengals won't comment until the contract is signed. But it figures to be a salary cap hit for this season of less than $1 million.
So it won't preclude the Bengals from pursuing former Redskins defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield, and it won't force the release of Copeland.
Copeland's release would count $1.6 million, a savings of about $2 million. against the Bengals cap. He was the fifth pick in the same draft that Henry came out of Mississippi State.
Thompson said the Steelers wanted to re-sign Henry, but LeBeau and money were the final factors.
Plus, Henry also talks frequently with Gibson.
"The idea of reuniting with Coach LeBeau really appealed to Kevin," Thompson said. "He feels the scheme is something he can really flourish in. The Steelers were caught without making as serious a run as the Bengals. It didn't hurt that he has some old teammates there. I know he talks to OG all the time."
Henry is the Bengals' third pickup in this free-agency period, joining defensive tackle Tony Williams and quarterback Jon Kitna.