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Mutual interest in Washington

Updated: 6:45 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS - The Bengals have expressed an interest in free agent wide receiver Kelley Washington but haven't quantified it yet to agent Chad Speck.

Upon his arrival Thursday at the NFL scouting combine, Speck acted on Washington's interest in the club and said he reached out to head coach Marvin Lewis, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, and director of player personnel Duke Tobin.

"There is a mutual interest but there hasn't been any talk about a visit or anything like that. We'll be talking," said Speck, a popular man since he's also the agent for the top player on the free-agent market in Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

If Washington comes to Cincinnati for a visit, it would be merely to get a physical. Even though he's only caught one ball since leaving the Bengals after the 2006 season, he hasn't missed any significant time because of injury.

Washington's release from the Patriots on Monday night has piqued an interest with wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh saying he's all but gone in free agency and Chad Ocho Cinco's agent shopping him.

A third-round pick in 2003, Washington caught 72 balls for 893 yards (12.4 average) and nine touchdowns in four seasons as a backup.

Washington didn't enamor himself with some coaches early in his career, but by the end he had become a valued special-teamer for coach Darrin Simmons and in his last season of 2006 he averaged nearly 13 yards (12.8) per his nine catches that included a 22-yard touchdown catch. Those last two stats would have led the team this past season. His best season was his second year when he was primarily the third receiver behind Ocho Cinco and Houshmandzadeh and he had 31 catches for 378 yards (12.2) and three touchdowns.

"He's a guy that's familiar with the offense and can play special teams," Speck said on Wednesday night.

Washington visited the Jets on Wednesday and the Bills have expressed interest.

Ocho agent Drew Rosenhaus may be shopping him, but the Bengals appear not ready to put him on the block this week.



AGE-OLD ARGUMENT: Houshmandzadeh looked for a piece of wood before he brought the wood one last time.

As he reached for a table like he was going for another pass over the middle he said, "I've never had a serious injury. Never had surgery. I don't drink. I don't smoke. They talk about age. They better look at your body. Age is what they say when they don't want to sign somebody."

Houshmandzadeh's appearance Thursday at the NFL scouting combine had nothing to do with his impending free agency Feb. 27. As a member of the players advisory council to commissioner Roger Goodell, Houshmandzadeh, also the Bengals representative to the NFL Players Association, spent the day as a sounding board.

He had lunch with head coach Marvin Lewis but said they didn't discuss his situation.

"I imagine we will at some point," he said.

Although Houshmandzadeh continues to sound like the Bengals are going to need a new player rep, he did say before ducking into the afternoon meeting that the Bengals are still an option.

"If they're going to be competitive, I'll consider it," he said. "If it's fair, I'll consider it. It's not realistic, but you never know."

There is clearly a wide gap of how the Bengals think they should pay a receiver that turns 32 the third week of next season and is coming off a season he averaged single-digit yards per catch and how Houshmandzadeh thinks one of the NFL leaders in catches over the last several years should be paid.

Houshmandzadeh looked at Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams' five-year, $43 million deal with $27 million guaranteed and sniffed when a Dallas writer suggested Williams' age (26) is why he would get a better deal.

"There's nothing Roy Williams can do that I can't do," Houshmandzadeh said. "I'm faster. I run better routes. I'm quicker. He's 26, but I bet his body is more beat up than mine."

It looks like the Bengals are paying, in part, for the resentment Houshmandzadeh still feels about the deal he signed before the 2005 season. It was a four-year contract worth nearly $13 million, a good deal, it would appear, for a guy who had one big year until then. But Houshmandzadeh said he's still mad about it and has been since the day he signed it, the last before free agency.

"I didn't have control; this time I have control," said Houshmandzadeh, who switched agents, from David Dunn to Kennard McGuire. "I was stupid. It's my fault. I hadn't been through it. Now I have."

And so he won't be undersold. He won't say what he wants or what he thinks he'll get because "I don't want to be disappointed; I want to be happy." With the Colts set to release Marvin Harrison, there is some speculation Houshmandzadeh will end up back here next week for a visit. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning almost got Houshmandzadeh the MVP of his one Pro Bowl with two quick touchdown passes and then raved about his brainy patterns.

But Houshmandzadeh is dubious because the Colts just extended their cornerback, Kelvin Hayden, for five years at $43 million and $23 million guaranteed.

"Are they going to want to sign a receiver for X amount of money?" he asked. "If I go to Indy, I'd put up crazy numbers. More than I ever did in Cincinnati. I'd catch 85 to 95, but have way more yards. They don't play where 'you only do this and you only do that.' If I could come to Indy, I would."

As for the mega contracts that have rolled out the last few days (Hayden, the Raiders paying $9 million a year for their own corner), Houshmandzadeh invoked Carson Palmer.

"We only have one guy who is paid like his peers," he said. "We all know who that is. At some point you have to reward other guys."

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