Signs point to quick sign

Posted: 6:55 p.m.

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Joseph

If history holds the ball like center Rich Braham, the Bengals won't be facing a tractor-pull of a first-round holdout like the one that wiped out David Pollack's training camp last year.

The firm that represents cornerback Johnathan Joseph has a history of not only doing early deals, but early deals for South Carolina corners. Plus, the Manhattan-based Sportstars' longest holdout last season was Matt Jones's three-day vigil in Jacksonville.

"They're an aggressive firm that doesn't mind jumping out there and making deals before anyone else," said Len Pasquarelli, ESPN.com's senior NFL writer with vast agent contacts. "And their deals hold up."

Also helping spur the potential for a quick deal is the fact that Sportstars did a Camp Eve deal for another corner last year selected No. 23 by the Raiders, Nebraska's Fabian Washington, taken a spot ahead of Joseph's No. 24. And, the firm also represents the 20th pick, Penn State defensive end Tamba Hali.

"We'll certainly have a feel for that part of the round," said Jason Chayut, Joseph's agent. "We feel like a good deal is going to be a good deal no matter at what point you do it."

That's what they did in 2004 with Dunta Robinson, Joseph's fellow Carolina corner taken with the 10th pick by the Texans, and signed him long before the slot was set when less than even a handful of first-rounders were in the fold.

But it's too early even for that now. The Texans have the only first-day drafted player under contract in No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams. Of the other 17 signed rookies, 13 come from the Redskins, 49ers, and Bears.

With most teams waiting, the serious stuff won't get going until after the Fourth, and even then it won't start to snap, crackle and pop until about July 19, 10 days before the Bengals open camp.

In the last seven years, the Bengals have had protracted holdouts from four of their No. 1s. Two of them, Pollack and Justin Smith, were starters. The other two, quarterback Akili Smith and running back Chris Perry, needed to get in because they were the prime backups.

Joseph isn't a starter or prime backup but he impressed enough in the spring camps that he could win a third corner job coveted by guys who have already had it in Rashad Bauman and Keiwan Ratliff.

Certainly Sportstars has developed into a prime mover in the agent game. They won in record fashion "The Lennies" this year, which is Pasquarelli's annual ranking of agents after the draft, with a total of 22 players drafted.

Chayut, 31, is one of the firm's seven agents, a New Yorker all the way who grew up in Queens, went to Jericho High School on Long Island, and joined the firm six years ago out of New York University's law program. But the native New Yorker has a good touch down south.

He also represents Joseph's good friend and former college teammate Ko Simpson, as well as the Georgia duo of cornerback Tim Jennings and safety Greg Blue. Clearly, Robinson thought his deal held up.

The only time Chayut has dealt with the Bengals is back in 2003 for another South Carolina product, sixth-rounder Langston Moore, a defensive tackle cut last season by the Bengals that ended up hooking on in Arizona.

"With the more agents you have, obviously you can give guys more attention and that's been important for us," Chayut said.

One possible hoop teams and agents are going to have to jump through this season is the fact that the new collective bargaining agreement has hiked minimum salaries across the board, but the rookie pool has risen by only about five percent. So they'll have to really crunch numbers to get significant raises in bonuses over last year.

"There are different ways to look at things and do things," Chayut said. "Our game is not to hold out guys."

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