3-28-04, 8:20 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
PALM BEACH, Fla. _ The brass of the Bengals and the Raiders are finally in the same building since the running back Corey Dillon-to-Oakland buzz heated up.
And that's where it seemed to remain as league officials gathered here Sunday for the start of the annual spring meeting at NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's Monday morning address to the owners and head coaches.
"It's hard to talk about because he belongs to another team right now," said Raiders head coach Norv Turner, when asked if he had an interest. "There's been a lot of speculation and I'd say that right now, that's where it is. Speculation."
The two other top Oakland officials who preceded owner Al Davis to the meetings, chief executive Amy Trask and personnel executive Mike Lombardi, declined comment. But there is some belief that the clubs are going to end up at least saying something to each other before the meetings end Wednesday, since Oakland has no answer for the loss of Charlie Garner.
One trade apparently not in the offing that also had been speculated is Bengals backup quarterback Jon Kitna rejoining his guru in San Francisco, 49ers head coach Dennis Erickson.
Erickson loves Kitna, the guy he signed as a NAIA college free agent when Erickson was head coach of the Seahawks, and he would love to have a veteran quarterback with the loss of Jeff Garcia leaving him with two young quarterbacks.
"Financially, there's no way we can do it," Erickson said. "We'd have to do a lot of different things. We'd have to re-structure a lot of things. I like (Tim) Rattay and I like (Ken) Dorsey, and I'd like to have a veteran, but we're not going to be able to do it. I'd like to look at it, but I just don't think it's possible for us."
Plus, the Bengals have indicated they are high on Kitna providing the team stability if Carson Palmer struggles during his NFL debut season.
If there's one place to get a trade done, it's at the spring meeting. Just ask Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome.
"I've done three trades in my seven years here. Everybody is here. Joel is here," said Newsome of Joel Bussert, the NFL exec who approves every deal. "Right now is the time when everybody has a pretty good idea what their draft boards look like and what their needs are and if they are going to be able to fill them in the draft or if they have to make a trade. Everything is here, but you don't know what two teams are thinking about."
It's believed that no team has offered Cincinnati a third-round pick or higher for Dillon. The conventional wisdom is the Bengals won't take anything less than a second-round pick for him, although one exec said Sunday they won't get more than a fourth.
As Ravens coach Brian Billick said, "It's up to each individual team to put a value on it." Which is what his club did with Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens. Even though Owens is a year older, doesn't have the career numbers of Dillon, and has had more distracting outbursts, Baltimore deemed him worthy of a second-round pick before the trade was negated.
"I can't imagine anybody on the board that would have had more of an impact for us where we're at right now (in the draft), so it was an easy decision for us," Billick said. "It's very subjective to each team. That's saying a lot for us because we draft pretty well."
But, of course, Owens had more than one team chasing him, and Dillon may not. Plus, some GMs speculated Sunday a team won't have to give up a draft pick because the Bengals are going to be forced to cut him because of his public posture.
"The market is do they have to pay that to get him, or is he going to be pushed down in the market? That's always a factor as well," Billick said. "That's not for me to say. It's each individual team."