BY GEOFF HOBSON
As the dust cleared Monday, Armegis Spearman is committed to being a Bengal even though he starts the season as a backup linebacker.
Committed enough that after the Bengals turned down a variety of trade offers for him from Green Bay Monday and then matched the Packers' three-year offer sheet potentially worth $3 million, Spearman reconsidered. He does plan to attend the Bengals' voluntary workouts and will be in town Sunday.
"Today was an all-day process. Now that he's matched, he's 110 percent a Bengal," said David Levine, Spearman's agent. "That's not going to be a problem. He's flattered that the Bengals had some options to trade him and despite all that and the contract, they wanted to keep him."
Also Monday, the Bengals signed long-snapper Brad St. Louis to a one-year deal worth about $610,000 and hosted free-agent linebacker Brad Jackson and free -agent guard Richard Mercier to visits. Could the Bengals still be in the hunt for receiver-returner Jermaine Lewis? Reports out of Washington have the Redskins not offering him a contract.
Last week, Spearman said he would go back to classes at the University of Mississippi instead of attend voluntarys if the Bengals matched the Packers' offer because Green Bay told him he would start for them. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis had no comment Monday on a subject that is now moot.
"It's very positive for Armegis to have someone else pursue his services, but we think it's in our best interest to match the offer and retain him," Lewis said. "I've scouted him as an opposing coach, and I think he's got a very bright future."
Spearman, who had spoken with Lewis twice before the match to state his case, got a lift from seeing his reaction.
"That was big of the man. He didn't have to say that," Spearman said. "It was just business. I had to play all my cards. Now that it's over, you're going to get 110 percent of me. From what I've been reading, Coach Lewis has been turning it around and if he thinks I can be a part of the plan, I really appreciate that. I never said anything negative because I don't have anything negative to say."
For a player who made $300,000 last season, Spearman has to be happy. A NFL source outside the Bengals said he got $550,000 to sign with a $375,000 salary this year, a $500,000 salary with a $250,000 roster bonus in 2004, and play-time incentives and escalators reaching $300,000 in the first two years. Then he is to make $1 million in 2005.
"The key to even signing the offer sheet is that it's an excellent contract," Levine said. "He gets more this year than he got in his entire three years in the league. It was never about being unhappy in Cincinnati, it was just that he had a chance to start for another team."
Spearman, 24, has played just seven games since he started 11 games and became the only undrafted player to make "The Football News," All-Rookie team in 2000.
The Bengals appeared not to make any offers to Jackson and Mercier on Monday, judging from agent reactions. The 6-2, 295-pound Mercier, 27, hasn't taken a NFL snap from scrimmage since the Ravens took him in the fifth round of the 2000 draft.
The 6-foot, 230-pound Jackson, 28, also has a Baltimore connection. He played for Lewis in Baltimore for three seasons before moving to Carolina in 2002.
During the Ravens' Super Bowl season in 2000, Jackson received the special teams game ball in back-to-back games against the Bengals and Titans, and made a big play against the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV when he fell on teammate Jermaine Lewis' fumbled punt at the Ravens 28 in the first quarter.
Jackson brings some March Madness. He played 11 games for the University of Cincinnati basketball team after a football career in which he switched from wide receiver to linebacker and became the Bearcats' third all-time tackler.