Warrick deal on verge

By GEOFF HOBSON

It's not soup yet, but the Bengals' negotiations with first-round draft pick Peter Warrick are cooking along at such a pace that dinner could be served as early as Sunday. After Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn finished speaking today with his agents, she was "very optimistic," a deal is in the offing for the Florida State wide receiver.

Jim Gould, the Cincinnati-based agent representing Warrick with Norm Nixon of Los Angeles, called the contract "95 percent done." He said the sides have agreed on the numbers and are still hashing out language and structure, but thought "the gap could be closed Sunday," if things kept in the same vein.

Neither side has talked specifics, but the deal is probably in the $40 million range with the final details no doubt revolving around incentives and what triggers those incentives.

Gould has said if a deal gets done, Warrick will fly to Cincinnati for the announcement even though he's not due here until June 12. But an agreement Sunday could spawn a Monday press conference.

"We've still got outstanding issues and that's getting ahead of where we are," Blackburn said. "But I agree with Jimmy. We're very close, we just have to keep working at it and we'll talk again (Sunday)."

But Blackburn couldn't help looking ahead to a training camp in which it appears now that Warrick is going to report on time when the club gathers at Georgetown College.

"We've got the most exciting player in college football and he's going to be at camp getting to know the offense and Akili," said Blackburn of second-year quarterback Akili Smith. "With the way Akili has looked and what Peter's done in college, our passing game looks imposing."

It looks like marathoning negotiating is going to be capped off by Sunday's talks. Gould and Nixon met Blackburn and Bengals chief financial officer Bill Scanlon at the club's offices Thursday for five-and-a-half hours. They thought they were so close they could finish it off Friday by speakerphone from Gould's downtown office, but it turned into an eight-hour discussion.

Gould admitted by the end of Friday night, things were "going south." But after an hour phone call this morning, the negotiations were back on track.

"Norm and Jim deserve a lot of credit," Blackburn said. "They've been willing to work late into the night, work weekends and try to get it done. It's been a good relationship."

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