Notes: Lewis watching

Posted: 7 a.m.

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Lewis

By the end of Sunday, the Super Bowl could have its first African-American head coach in either the Colts' Tony Dungy or the Bears' Lovie Smith or both.

And that means something to Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, one of the league's five black head coaches.

"It's a milestone and it gives opportunity," Lewis said last week. "It's something that minority coaches can look to and it makes them feel good."

Lewis, the Bengals' first African-American head coach, has never worked with Dungy or Smith. But he does remember getting a recruiting letter from the University of Minnesota with Gophers quarterback Tony Dungy's picture on the 1976 schedule and he met Smith when both were coaching in college in the mid-1980s.

Lewis noted that during what could be a watershed postseason, three minority candidates that interviewed for head jobs last season got fired: Raiders head coach Art Shell, Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis and Lions defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson. Tim Lewis and Henderson have worked with Marvin Lewis and Tim has hooked on with Carolina as the Panthers secondary coach.

"It's give and take," Marvin Lewis said. "Hopefully a guy like Hue Jackson now gets an opportunity."

Jackson, the Bengals wide receivers coach the last three seasons, is now the offensive coordinator in Atlanta.

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Smith

CAP STUFF: Word is the Bengals are keeping the option open of using the franchise tag on defensive end Justin Smith when free agency opens in about five weeks. At the very least if they put that $8 million number on Smith, they could do with him what they couldn't do with Takeo Spikes and trade him. Or just play the season with him if they can't extend his contract or find a suitable replacement.

That would mean the Bengals would have about $13 million committed to their pass rushers in '07 and it reflects how the past two seasons of giving big numbers to Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer have made them tighter against the cap than many clubs the past few seasons.

Not only could $13 million be committed to Smith and Geathers, but the club will probably put about $5 million out in tender offers to its restricted free agents and another $4 million figures to be committed to the draft. So that is already $22 million spoken for before working on deals for tight ends Reggie Kelly and Tony Stewart, running back Kenny Watson, and safety Kevin Kaesviharn, guys the Bengals figure to keep. That's about another $7-8 million.

So if they don't do Smith, they probably have room for one major free-agent signing. The thing to keep an eye on are the restricted offers to punter Kyle Larson and offensive lineman Stacy Andrews.

Teams have three options on tendering their RFAs: A first-round designation at $1.8 million, a second-round designation at $1.3 million, and a $850,000 designation in which the compensation would correspond to what round the player was drafted in if the Bengals didn't match.

But if they lost Larson, the team's best punter since Lee Johnson, they wouldn't get any compensation since they signed him as a college free agent. Andrews would net only a fourth-round pick, which might make him attractive to another team.

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