Thompson out, but Schobel in

n 5-10-02, 4:50 p.m.

Updated: 5-11-02, 12:15 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals agreed to terms with third-round draft choice Matt Schobel Friday in one of their earliest signings ever and hope it spurs more signings in the next week.

Jim Lippincott, the club's director of pro/college personnel who did the deal with Schobel's agent, hopes to have a contract with sixth-rounder Marquand Manuel early next week and have two of the six draft picks in the fold.

Schobel agreed on the four-year deal as Bengals vice president Paul Brown prepared to sit down in California with the Bay Area-based agent for second-rounder Lamont Thompson, but the two-hour meeting ended in no deal. The Bengals and Mike Sullivan have already had a falling out over injury protection, which kept the projected starter at free safety out of this past weekend's minicamp, but they hope they can get him into next week's voluntary practices by getting a contract.

Sullivan said the sides exchanged proposals Friday, but they couldn't reach a deal and he reiterated Thompson won't be at voluntarys until he has an injury protection waiver similar to the one the Bengals gave first-rounder Levi Jones.

Bengals President Mike Brown also said his side isn't backing down and he has no plans to relent on refusing the waiver, which guarantees the club negotiates in good faith despite an injury. Brown has given his word, but Sullivan wants it in writing.

The Bengals gave up their fifth- rounder to trade up to take Schobel with the 67th pick, and envision the TCU product as a potential starter this season. Although he has drawn praise for his speed and route running, Schobel, a converted quarterback, is in just his third year as a tight end.

He has been battling a nagging hamstring injury, which shelved him from minicamp's last two practices, as well as three games last season. Lippincott hopes he'll be able to practice when he's eligible to start working again in Cincinnati on Thursday.

"We're going to play it by ear," Schobel said, "and see how I feel. I don't think it's going to be a problem. I just haven't had time to rest it with the all-star games right after the season and then with my workouts. I should be ready by the time I get up there."

If he's healthy, the 6-4, 260-pound Schobel, who caught six touchdown passes at TCU, will most likely be the No. 1 tight end because Sean Brewer (mild hamstring tear) isn't expected back until training camp.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but it figures to total in the $2 million range. With the Bengals able to get another year from Schobel and keep him until he becomes an unrestricted free agent, the club most likely upped their bonus offer.

Schobel, whose brother signed a couple of days before last year's Bills' training camp, is relieved the deal was done so soon.

"It's nice not to have to wait around like he did," Schobel said. "Now all I have to worry about is getting ready for training camp in the next two months."

Things didn't go as smoothly with Thompson. Mike Brown said the deal snagged on structure, with Sullivan seeking more of a bonus than the Bengals want to give.

"I think we agree on the amount of money, but not the way it should be paid," Brown said. "The structure changes the total deal and we're not prepared to change the structure. This one isn't going to get done as quickly as we had hoped."

Brown said he has no plans to give Thompson the same injury protection agreement they gave Jones.

"It's been our policy to draw the line at the first-rounder," Brown said.

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