W. Anderson - Hamilton County-PBSL

BY GEOFF HOBSON

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Key point in Anderson talks

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With June 1 approaching, the Bengals hope they can get right tackle Willie Anderson signed to a long-term extension so they know were they stand with their salary cap. The club was a little disheartened today with Terry Bolar's counter proposal, but it is hopeful the Atlanta-based agent's new set of numbers that are to arrive Thursday morning will be more in line with the Bengals' thinking and pave the way for a face-to-face meeting early next week.

Neither side is divulging specifics, but the critical issue remains the same. The Bengals' six-year offer that figures to be about $31 million is enticing. But Bolar has concerns about the club not ripping up this year's salary of $1 million, making it a seven-year deal instead of a six-year deal. If that matter can be resolved, it could speed up an agreement.

Katie Blackburn, the Bengals executive vice president, has indicated to Bolar that she feels the team is offering Anderson the NFL's largest pact for an offensive lineman in new money and that it can't go much higher.

"It's getting to the point where they have to decide if what we have out there appeals to them or not," Blackburn said.

Also playing a major role in the Anderson talks is the Bengals' salary cap count. The club was reassured today that it should anticipate a ruling on the Carl Pickens' case before June 1 that will allow them to release Pickens and keep their franchise tag in free agency. By cutting Pickens before June 1, the club absorbs under this year's cap all of his $2.8 million pro-rated signing bonus.

But it also chews up enough cap room that if Anderson isn't signed by June 1, the Bengals may have to reach into the money they are offering him to sign attractive free agents.

"Every year there are guys who get cut after June 1 and are interesting possibilities," Brown said. "We're going to be looking at them like we do any year."

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COUNTY, TEAM TALKS:

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The Bengals and the Hamilton County prosecutor's office have reached a framework for a settlement regarding the question of who will manage Paul Brown Stadium. The club anticipates the county commissioners to approve the deal Monday in which the Bengals, through PBS Limited, will manage the stadium while the county satisfies its legal concerns.

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