More bread, but same butter for Bengals

Posted: 10:45 a.m.

The Bengals have a new salary cap figure of $102 million, and look for them to start flexing their muscles as free agency opened Saturday.

They have said they'll come out swinging on a veteran backup quarterback and have lined up at least one visit before head coach Marvin Lewis leaves in the next few days for the NFL Competition Committee meetings. The agent for Dolphins backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels said his client is expected in Cincinnati Sunday following a trip to Houston and before one to New York to see the Jets. One published report has Bengals backup Jon Kitna headed to visit Detroit this weekend.

Rosenfels, who turned 28 on Monday, has thrown just 109 NFL passes but has a highly-regarded arm that turned in a 71-yard touchdown pass last season.

If phone calls are any indication, it looks like the Bengals are going younger rather than older at a spot that very well could yield their seventh Opening Day quarterback in the last nine seasons depending on Pro Bowler Carson Palmer's rehab from reconstructive knee surgery.

"He knows the situation there and is interested. We'll see who comes out of the box," said Rick Smith, Rosenfelts' agent.

There may be a new cap number, but the Bengals will no doubt continue their old ways of not wanting to drop a big deal early in free agency. Yet they also have a need at safety, a position that typically doesn't break the bank and there are some good ones out there.

Cincinnati could also use some defensive line help, but look for it to go younger there as well. When it comes to defensive tackles, the Bengals also may wait for a few weeks until the opening price falls.

Former Bills defensive tackle Sam Adams, a Lewis disciple, has been available for a week and sits in a market where Chris Hovan and La'Roi Glover have taken home beefy signing bonuses in the $4 million range that the Bengals would probably rather give to two of their offensive tackles in extensions

Change in free agent philosophy?

Except for Lewis's first offseason, the Bengals have never looked to free agency as the place to secure their major pieces. But they have also never been this close to a Super Bowl in the free agency era and it will be interesting to see if they think they are close enough that adding an Adams or a Gerard Warren would be big money to get them over the top.

But Warren wants to go back to Denver, Adams turns an un-Bengal-like 33 in May, and the Rams' Ryan Pickett is going to be looking for a major deal and is already being pursued by Arizona and Cleveland. On Friday, Adams agent Angelo Wright reiterated his client wants to play for Lewis but that the Bengals have yet to make an offer.

One young tackle the Bengals figure to contact is the Ravens' Maake Kemoeatu. At 6-5, 340 pounds he has the girth they can use in the middle and he turned just 27 in January. But he is also more of a 3-4 tackle, and there are no indications Lewis is switching out of the 4-3 defense he has run for the past 11 seasons in Baltimore and Cincinnati. And, Kemoeatu reportedly is going to have interest from the nearby Redskins and the Panthers were on the horn early Saturday with his California-based agent.

Adam Archuleta, the market's top-hitting safety, is also reportedly about to be courted by the Redskins. But other good tacklers the Bengals need in the back end are also available, such as Miami's Lance Schulters, Carolina's Marlon McCree, and Tampa Bay's Dexter Jackson. According to reports early Saturday, McCree is headed to San Diego for a visit.

Keep an eye on Jackson, the MVP of Tampa's Super Bowl win a few years ago. A source familiar with the Bucaneers said at last month's scouting combine that Lewis has been a big fan since Jackson came out of Florida State eight years ago.

And would the Bengals be interested in Lawyer Milloy, the former Pro Bowler and high school teammate of Kitna in Tacoma, Wash.?

Milloy turns 33 during the season and doesn't fit Cincinnati's age specs, but, if healthy, he could be the kind of guy the Bengals think gets them near the top.

The Bengals will reveal their strategy soon enough and Kitna, their backup quarterback, could help dictate it. The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting he'll visit Detroit this weekend to visit the Lions. He then figures to hit the Jets in New York.

The Bengals would like to re-sign Kitna, but that looks to be a long shot because he's seeking an open competition. But the Lions have said Joey Harrington, a No. 3 pick in 2002, is their No. 1, and the Jets are reportedly going to draft one at No. 4 while mulling a trade for Washington's Patrick Ramsey.

Rosenfels is also on the Jets' radar and is expected to visit, but he looks to have more interest from the Texans and Bengals. One of new Houston head coach Gary Kubiak's first acts was to commit major money to incumbent David Carr.

Veteran backups Tommy Maddox and Jay Fiedler have been available before free agency, but their agents said Friday the Bengals haven't called. That means Cincinnati may have been waiting for the younger guys to become free, such as Rosenfels, the Giants' Tim Hasselbeck, and Arizona's Josh McCown.

Rosenfels worked with Bengals wide receivers coach Hue Jackson in Washington, the club that took him in the fourth round of the 2001 draft out of Iowa State. When the Redskins took Ramsey in the first round in the next draft, they traded Rosenfels to Miami.

The Bengals have also said a major priority is to approach their offensive linemen in the hope of extending some of their contracts beyond this season.

Ken Zuckerman, the agent for left tackle Levi Jones, said late Friday afternoon that he had not been contacted by the club yet.

"We'll see how they're going to do it," Zuckerman said. "Will they do it right away in free agency or wait? I guess we'll find out."

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