Vick deal ignites debate

5-09-01, 6:15 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

With the Bengals and the agents for Corey Dillon preparing to sit down in the next few days, the NFL Draft's No. 1 pick quietly signed his contract in Atlanta.

But quarterback Michael Vick's six-year deal that could max out at $62 million has an impact on the next big Bengals' negotiation.

Jim Steiner, the agent for the fourth pick in the draft in Justin Smith, said Wednesday he had yet to see the Vick deal and couldn't comment on the ramifications.

But Vick's contract contains elements that disturb the Bengals, such as guaranteed money and two tiers of payouts. The new

structure is born out of the fact that there can't be a deal longer than six years because the NFL's collective bargaining agreement runs through 2005.

The problem for teams is the six years means there's a shorter pro-ration on the signing bonus. So the Falcons allegedly got around that by giving Vick $15.3 million guaranteed in the first three years of the deal.

A total of $5 million comes in bonus and salary for 2001 with $8 million believed to be coming next year.

"We want to do a conventional, standard deal with a big signing bonus in the first year," said Bengals President Mike Brown. "We would prefer to keep our contracts understandable and prefer not to stretch the rules or look for new openings; new ways to pay even more to rookies when they're way overpaid.

"When you look at it, it's a clear misuse of money in cap room," Brown said. "Teams shouldn't pay more in bonus and guaranteed money because I think players ought to perform and be paid based on their performance and these guys haven't even played yet."

Last year, the Bengals gave wide receiver Peter Warrick, also the fourth pick, $8.5 million to sign. But that was pro-rated over seven years. Last year's Bengals' rookie pool of about $4 million figures to jump about 8 percent, but the six-year pro-ration puts on the squeeze.

"That's the issue," Brown said. "The fact the pro-ration is shorter this year puts a restraint on what clubs can do," Brown said. "Other teams won't be inclined to do (a Vick deal)."

Brown also argues quarterbacks historically get the big deals with creative salary cap language, and not the other positions.

"Why quarterbacks should be different from anybody else is unfathomable to me," Brown said of the rookie pay scale. "Sure, if they pan out, they're more important. Then maybe they should be paid like that."

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