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Notes: Lewis optimistic on Whit; WRs draw attention


Head coach Marvin Lewis meets the press Friday.

INDIANAPOLIS - Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is optimistic they'll re-sign Andrew Whitworth in the Pro Bowl left tackle's first foray into free agency in his 12-season career.

During a break Friday at the NFL scouting combine, Lewis met the media briefly in the last week before free agents can start talking to other teams. They can start signing with other teams Thursday, but the Bengals are hoping they won't be outbid for Whitworth and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

 They'll also try to re-sign right guard Kevin Zeitler, wide receiver Brandon LaFell, and running back Rex Burkhead. But with Zeitler expected to break the high water mark of $11.6 million per year for guards, the Bengals are prepared to try a bevy of candidates at right guard that included last year's fifth-round pick Christian Westerman.

"Chris is a good, young talent. He's strong, athletic. He's smart," Lewis said. "I don't think the game's going to get too big for him. With the way the football team works with free agency, you have to be prepared. Whether through injury and so forth … The fortunate thing without having an injury at that position until late in the year, he didn't get as much opportunity. But we feel good about him going forward."

The challenge at that spot is experience. Westerman didn't take a snap last season and another candidate, Trey Hopkins, took 10. T.J. Johnson took 95 at center and left guard.

DEEP DRAFT: Lewis hasn't delved deeply into the players yet in this draft, but he hears from the scouts it is deep on defense, particularly at pass rusher. But the former Steelers linebackers coach has checked out the backers and likes what he sees.

 "That's the position in college football that has gone by the wayside," Lewis said. "There are four positions guys play on defense. Cornerback, rusher, interior line, safety or linebacker. There are guys that are athletic and have size that translate well to the NFL game at linebacker."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Asked if the NFL is close to making a decision on possible punishment of cornerback Adam Jones, Lewis said Jones' situation "is still going through the process." …

If it wasn't clear the Bengals are looking for an A.J. Green running mate in any round, it is now. Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, one of the draft's top two receivers, said he's meeting with the Bengals formally Friday night. Texas A&M's Josh Reynolds, a mid-round projection, said he met with them Thursday night complete with grease board.

"They corrected me on some stuff," Reynolds said.

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