BY GEOFF HOBSON
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ted Washington made a 370-pound statement Monday about his willingness to make Cincinnati his home for the next four years or so.
"I'm very impressed," said Washington at the end of his visit to snowy Paul Brown Stadium. "I've been in the league 10 years and after hearing all the negative stuff, I don't see it. I don't know where these guys are getting it. From the coaches, the players, the city itself, I'm comfortable here.
"I hope this is my last visit," said Washington, a University of Louisville product. "The only thing left to do is to get a contract."
The only discomfort the Bengals had when they began contract negotiations with one of the NFL's premier run stuffers Monday afternoon is age. History was made when Washington, at the end of an exhaustive physical, became the first free-agent to get into the magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI) at PBS.
Washington turns 33 next month and came to town with published reports saying he has arthritis in one of his ankles. But the Bengals realize that hasn't stopped him from being a major reason the Bills are a perennial top ten defensive team that has finished no lower than sixth against the run the last three years.
But the other thing that could prove uncomfortable is the five-year, $25 million deal tackle Jon Randle signed in Seattle. Washington is probably looking at that number, since he's a year younger and coming off the Pro Bowl.
The Bengals traditionally give players who are that age one- or two-year deals. But Washington is looking to make this his final contract.
"Wherever we go, we want it to be the last stop of his career," said Angelo Wright, Washington's agent who didn't make the trip. "We're looking at a three- to four-year deal. This is a guy still playing at a Pro Bowl caliber."
The Bengals plan to host a younger defensive tackle Tuesday in the Vikings' Tony Williams, a four-year veteran who turns 26 just before training camp, and could turn that way if the Ted Talks stall.
But Washington enjoyed his dinner enough Sunday night at The Precinct
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with defensive line coach Tim Krumrie and end Vaughn Booker that he said, "I'll be back."
There may jokes about Washington's ample 6-5 frame, but he wears his size solidly. He's started 85 straight games, plays hurt, and lets others make plays while he does the dirty work.
"I would free up every linebacker that plays behind me," Washington said when asked what he brings to the Bengals. "Leadership. Leading by example. Watching me play. That's why I think we had a great defense in Buffalo. . .I'd like playing with the linebackers they have and the defensive linemen they have. I'd like to get things rolling and put the Bengals back on the map where they belong, in the playoffs and Super Bowl."
Washington has no bitterness to a Buffalo club that decided not to take his $7.66 million salary cap hit after giving receiver Eric Moulds about $10 million per year.
But he appeared displeased when told new Bills General Manager Tom Donahoe didn't want to pay a player who played 52 percent of the downs that much money.
"Oh, did he make that comment?" Washington asked. "He needs to go down the list of all the guys (on the defense), all the linebackers, some of the guys that came off the field when I came off the field. There were no 80 percent players on that team. You can't pick out one player. On that 52 percent, I got the job done."
Washington compared coming to the Bengals to his decision to attend Louisville coming out of Tampa, Fla.
"I've seen them on tape and they're only a few players away from being a good playoff team, a championship defense," Washington said. "When I got to Louisville, they weren't known for football back in the day. I chose that over every school in Florida and we ended up winning the Fiesta Bowl (his senior season)."
Head coach Dick LeBeau said teaming Washington with Oliver Gibson in the middle would drive the Bengals' defense to the top of the league after two seasons their yards per rush average has been in the top 10.
He also thinks Washington would boost sales.
"I think his name would add a presence in our future negotiations with other free agents," LeBeau said. "He's a high-prolife player well known throughout the league."