Roman talks heat up

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals' negotiations with second-round draft choice Mark Roman just started in the past few days, but club vice president Paul Brown and agent Joel Segal are making up for lost time. They've spoken a few times every day this week and are hopeful they can have the LSU cornerback in time for Friday's start of training camp.

"We continue to talk and we're going step-by-step," Segal said.

Segal didn't want to say anything else and he probably doesn't have time since he represents three other second-round picks. But according to the list of rookie deals on cbssportsline.com, the players selected right before and after Roman have a fifth year that voids and the Bengals loathe the concept of voidable years.

A voidable year means the player has a fairly easy incentive to reach that will turn the contract into a four-year deal, but the signing bonus can be bigger because it's pro-rated over five years. But Brown said Tuesday he's striving for a straight four-year contract.

New Orleans defensive end Darren Howard, selected with the second pick in the second round a slot ahead of Roman, has a voidable fifth year to go along with his $1.43 million bonus. The fifth pick in the round is also a Segal client and Southern Mississippi receiver Todd Pinkston got a voidable fifth year form the Eagles. So did the sixth pick from the Falcons, USC tackle Travis Claridge.

The Bengals' Nos. 3, 6 and 7 picks are also unsigned. Third-rounder Ron Dugans has agreed on money, but not the Carl Pickens clause, and sixth-rounder Neil Rackers and seventh-rounder Brad St. Louis are looking for similar money as the people drafted around them.

The Bengals think Rackers can give kicker Doug Pelfrey a big push and agent Rob Roche said it's too early to start talking about a holdout. Each team's rookie salary pool is different, but Roche is concerned the Bengals' signing bonus offer is less than the one signed by Bears kicker Paul Edinger, a player taken five picks after Rackers.

"We're looking at different ways we can get there," Roche said. "We're not looking for anything unreasonable. Maybe we can get there a couple of different ways, possibly with incentives. We're having good discussions."

* SCORE IT: *Paul Brown Stadium had its first scoreboard test Tuesday and the south board lit up the place with a tape of a NASCAR race. Troy Blackburn, the club's director of business development, said workers were making sure the images are properly sized and that the feeds are going to the right place. Both replay boards are three times the size of the Cinergy Field boards at 90 feet wide and about 30 feet wide.

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