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Looking up front

Updated: 6:40 p.m.

With Justin Smith in Frisco and Shaun Rogers in Cleveland, the Bengals are still trying to find people for their defensive front.

The bid for Rogers indicated the Bengals are prepared to stick in the 4-3 defense with the right personnel. They plan to look at another 4-3 player this weekend when Titans end Antwan Odom comes in for a visit with eight sacks in his first year as a starter.

After willing to give up third- and fifth-round picks Friday for Rogers, the Bengals have put Jets tackle Dewayne Robertson into the discussion as they brace for a schedule that includes six of the NFL's top 10 rushing teams from 2007. It's not clear how interested they are, but Hadley Engelhard, Roberston's agent, said Saturday, "The Bengals have reached out to contact us, but it's all very preliminary."

The Bengals are looking for help on the other side of the ball, too. The agent for Colts tight end Ben Utecht said he has discussed a visit for next week.

The Bengals had no comment Saturday on the NFL's nixing of the Rogers trade after it was turned in Friday afternoon. Neither did the league, saying it was a club matter.

Most media outlets, including, reported the trade from sources shortly after the teams completed it. Apparently during the delay after the trade was turned in to the league office, the Lions went to the Browns to get a deal and got the player they wanted, cornerback Leigh Bodden, instead of the two picks.

"The club never announced anything on this," said Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan. "It was reported incorrectly from other sources. There are numerous trade discussions for every trade that actually takes place."

It's believed the league's interpretation of Rogers' $1 million roster bonus allocation due Saturday voided the deal.

The 6-1, 310-pound Robertson out of Kentucky doesn't have the size or Pro Bowls of Rogers. But he doesn't have the baggage, either. He's been playing out of position as a 3-4 nose tackle, he's only 26 years old, and is a fine athlete and penetrator. He would be a 4-3 fit, but the Bengals would have a lot of ground to cover before it happened to rework the contract.

The Jets aren't as rushed to make a deal like the Lions because Robertson's $3 million roster bonus isn't due until June. Plus, he's got a $6.8 million salary for this year and a $4.5 million salary for next (and a $4.5 million roster bonus) in a deal befitting the fourth pick in the 2003 draft.

His Kentucky counterpart, free safety Marlon McCree, is an intriguing guy for a team that has had its eye on him since he played in Lexington. He'll be 31 in March, but he's played every game the last two years for the playoff Chargers. McCree may not be as athletic as the departed Madieu Williams, but he can provide a veteran hand in a young secondary.

The 6-6, 251-pound Utecht is another intriguing free agent. He's put up some good receiving numbers even though he was playing behind Pro Bowler Dallas Clark and blocking at the line of scrimmage.

In 41 games he's caught 71 balls for 800 yards and three touchdowns and he knows what it's like downfield, where he's got eight catches of at least 20 yards. He had 31 catches last season after getting 37 in '06.



The agent for Smith confirmed Saturday what had been speculated for more than a year when the 49ers landed his client with a Richard Seymour-like contract.

JIm Steiner emerged with a deal that gives Smith $32.5 million in the first four years of the contract. The final numbers, a six-year, $45 million deal that included $20 million in guarantees, wasn't in the Bengals' realm.

Steiner said he and the Bengals missed connections during Friday's frenzy, but he already knew where the club stood.

"If they had really wanted to sign him, they had two years to do it," Steiner said. "He's appreciative of his time there and he's excited about going to San Francisco. They've wanted him for two years. They've wanted to trade for him. They've got a hybird 3-4 and he's excited about the way they're going to use him."

On the depth chart at right end is Frostee Rucker and possibly Jonathan Fanene if the Bengals go to a 3-4. Odom would fit a 4-3 right end.

The 49ers were ready to court Smith last year until the Bengals put the franchise tag on him, keeping him for another year. When the tag went up to $10 million in a year he had a career-low two sacks, the Bengals opted to let Smith go even though they covet his durability and work ethic.

The Niners put the blitz on during his visit on the first day of free agency Friday when they took him for a helicopter ride with head coach Mike Nolan to show the Missouri kid the proximity of woods and streams to the Bay Area.

Smith, the Bengals' top pick in 2001 and the fourth overall, is fourth on the club's all-time sacks list with 43.5. But it is his production of racking up at least 91 tackles in the past five years and a streak of 107 straight starts in which he played about 95 percent of the snaps that the Bengals will have a difficult time replacing.

Those are elements at right end in a 3-4 that the Niners think will be a good fit for a unit that was 22nd against the run last season.

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