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7-11-01, 7:40 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The agent for Bengals' second-round draft pick Chad Johnson fears a repeat holdout of last year will prevent his client from contributing much his rookie season

"That's what history shows," said Jerome Stanley Wednesday. "It's such a big jump from college to the NFL that you need that month to get used to the game."

Stanley is confident a deal can get worked out, "if both sides pick out their priorities and then compromise."

But he's also confident he can't accept a five-year deal with such a low salary in the fifth year, which sets up a replay of the debate that sparked last year's 17-day holdout by second-round pick Mark Roman.

One Johnson who will be in camp on time is sixth-rounder Riall, a linebacker from Stanford who agreed to a three-year deal in the $950,000 range Wednesday. He joins fifth-rounder Victor Leyva, a guard from Arizona State, as the Bengals' signed draft picks.

Also Wednesday, Jim Steiner, the agent for No. 1 pick Justin Smith, plans to talk to the Bengals Thursday.

The knotty problem that high in the second round with the 35th pick is teams need to pro-rate that big of a signing bonus (figure in the $1.4 million range) over five years to fit it in the rookie pool.

Teams have been getting around that by making the fifth year voidable,

a device the Bengals only like to use for first-rounders. Roman ended up signing a four-year deal, but the Bengals compromised elsewhere to avoid the voidable.

According to CBS Sportsline, the player picked in front of Johnson at No. 35, Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler, has a voidable fifth year in a contract that gives him $1.44 million to sign.

"A five-year deal is virtually impossible," Stanley said. "I just don't see it happening. But we're going to keep on talking and if it's not done by the time camp starts, we'll still continue to keep talking."

The Bengals are clearly counting on Johnson, a 4.3 40-yard dash game-breaker from Oregon State, more than they were Roman at this time last year. Johnson figures to start in a three-receiver set opposite Darnay Scott with Peter Warrick in the slot. But since Johnson played just one year of major college ball, his camp will be even more important than Roman's since Roman played four years at LSU.

Stanley says he has a good relationship with the Bengals negotiator, vice president Paul Brown, which was strengthened when Stanley flew in from his Los Angeles base last month to meet with Brown at his stadium office.

Ray Anderson, the agent for Riall Johnson, didn't have to come to Cincinnati. But he was getting on a plane leaving Seattle and baseball's All-Star Game Wednesday when he called Bengals director of pro/college personnel Jim Lippincott to take the deal.

Anderson indicated his client accepted a signing bonus in the $74,000 range, which slots him as the 168th pick behind Bobby Garner's $77,000 at No. 167 and Chad Ward's 73,000 at No. 170, according to national reports. Anderson, one of the league's more respected veteran agents, had to battle Lippincott for a week or so.

"As far as being fair and in the market value, yes, it's what we wanted," Anderson said. "I think (the Bengals) are getting better at making sure they are out there with a fair number that is representative of the market."

Lippincott said both sides moved in the last days: "It was just old fashioned give and take."

Which is what is going to have to happen with fourth-rounder Rudi Johnson. The Bengals think they've hit the number between No. 99 Robert Garza ($330,000 to sign) and No. 101 Jamie Henderson ($322,000) for Johnson at No. 100. But Henderson's annual incentives, which the Bengals won't do for second-day picks, has snagged the deal.

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