Smith talks snag

7-27-01, 1:50 a.m.

7-27-01, 1:50 a.m.

Updated: 7-27-01, 4:40 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ The Bengals' bid to get first-round pick Justin Smith signed before next week's pre-season opener snagged during Friday's discussions.

On Thursday, Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn sent agent Jim Steiner a proposal that included a two-tiered signing bonus the club had originally dismissed, but was surprised when the concession didn't lead to more productive talks.

"We didn't make as much progress as I thought we had made given the last proposal we made," Blackburn said. "I had hoped it would be something that would get him in here in the next couple of days. It seems as though that might not be the case."

Blackburn wouldn't get specific, but she did say that the signing bonus, the option bonus, and first-year salary represents a significant increase over the $8.5 million Bengals receiver got last season in the first year of his deal.

Steiner expressed optimism Thursday when the the club indicated it is willing to discuss the idea of a two-tiered signing bonus, a

device used by other clubs in the first round to compensate for this year's salary cap restrictions. Steiner said he thought the sides have moved past the philosophical differences of splitting a signing bonus into two or three years.

The Begals prefer to count the bonus in one year, but Steiner argues the club can't give Smith more than Warrick's bonus of $8.5 million of last year if it's done within the parameters of the rookie pool. The Bengals think they can use bonus, salary and incentives to get Smith to where he wants to be, probably in the $9-10 million range for the first year.

But Steiner said there will most likely be compromises and was encouraged after Thursday's discussions.

"They are warming up to the idea of doing it," Steiner said. "The numbers don't work if you don't do it, but I think we're beyond that discussion. I think we're going to engage in serious discussions about that structure. That's progress and I look forward to it not dragging out."

Bengals President Mike Brown says even though other teams are going with what amounts to guaranteed money in future years, that doesn't mean the Bengals have to copy them.

"The money is still money and we think we're offering what we think they want," Brown said. "It's just in a different way."

INJURY UPDATE: Freddie Moore, the promising free-agent rookie tackle out of Florida A&M, looks like he'll be out for eight to 10 weeks and possibly for the season with a complete tear of his medial collateral knee ligament. . .DT Calvin Lewis, a rookie free-agent out of Memphis, is day-to-day with a sprained ankle. . .WR Danny Farmer (hamstring) is day-to-day as is WR Malcolm Johnson (twisted left knee). . . DE Vaughn Booker, who had a knee problem last year, got a day off Thursday.

THIS AND THAT: If Jon Kitna does indeed get the first snaps of Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, he figures it's an indication that things are going well for him in the quarterback derby, "but it's not the end all and be all." . . .

The 45-play scrimmage should last from 1:50-2:45 p.m. with player introductions at 1 p.m. followed by individual and team drills at 1:10 p.m. The

offense scores six points for a touchdown, three for a field-goal, one for an extra point, and there are no two-point plays. The defense gets two points for forcing a punt or field-goal try and four points for forcing a turnover. The don'ts of the day are: cut blocking, hitting the quarterback, trick plays, safety blitz, and goal-line personnel. . .

Running back Rudi Johnson, the fourth-rounder out of Auburn, has looked like a pro picking up blitzes and he's going to push Brandon Bennett to back up Pro Bowler Corey Dillon. With the possibility that they will only keep four backs _ one of which is a fullback – Curtis Keaton and Michael Basnight have to show something quickly. . .

Coach Dick LeBeau can't see enough of Dillon: "Corey Dillon being in here and working out every day, you can see he's as sharp as I've seen him at this stage of the year. . ."

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