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$ Million Man

INDIANAPOLIS - The man whose teammates have nicknamed "Hard Knocks" has taken another step in his improbable journey from the CFL and is now a $1 million player.

Make that $1.5 million.

An NFL source said Saturday night at the NFL scouting combine that the Bengals have tendered SAM linebacker Rashad Jeanty a one-year, $1.5 million deal to keep him as a restricted free agent. If a team signs Jeanty to an offer sheet and the Bengals don't match, the club would be compensated a second-round pick.

But they want him back, particularly after a blood-and-guts season he played all 16 games despite sustaining plantar fasciitis on the bottom of his foot halfway through the season.

It was also just a year after a 16-inch titanium rod was placed from the top of his knee to his foot after multiple stress fractures were discovered in his tibia during the 2007 preseason. Jeanty missed the first five games but came back to play special teams and was in the starting lineup in the ninth game.

For his efforts his teammates voted him the team's Ed Block Courage Award winner this year, a season he finished fourth on the team in tackles with 97 and second with 15 special-teams tackles. Heading into his fourth season, Jeanty, who turns 26 the week before the draft, is considered one of the Bengals' best and most physical run players. But the coaches believe he has improved as an all-around backer and ended the season playing more on passing downs.

It's a good possibility the Bengals are going to give the same tender to backup WILL backer Brandon Johnson. They have four other restricted players (linebacker Corey Mays, safety John Busing, wide receiver Glenn Holt, and running back DeDe Dorsey) that may not get tendered because they came into the NFL as college free agents and would only require compensation if they were offered the $1.5 million figure.

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