Warrick done by June 1?

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The agents for first-round draft pick Peter Warrick hope to lock up a contract when they meet face-to-face with the Bengals this coming Thursday in Cincinnati. Jim Gould and Norm Nixon plan to meet with Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn in what they think can be the first and last negotiating session. Gould planned to get his proposal to Blackburn tonight so she can peruse it during the holiday weekend.

Thursday is June 1, a big day in Bengal plans that could affect some veteran players. They had expected to release wide receiver Carl Pickens before then so they can put his $2.8 million count into this year's salary cap. But a hangup with the NFL Players Association could delay things until later in the spring/summer. If Pickens is cut after June 1, $700,000 will count against this season's cap with $2.1 million going into 2001.

Sources around the NFL have indicated the NFLPA plans to drop its grievance with the Bengals over the club's franchise tag when they release Pickens. But the settlement is tied up in other cases that have yet to be concluded and the Bengals left the league meeting in Baltimore this week unsure if Pickens would go before or after June 1.

The Bengals aren't saying what they'll do with Pickens if they have him beyond June 1, but it figures they won't do anything with him until they find out for sure they have their franchise tag.

Bengals president Mike Brown is preferring to wait and see what happens after the weekend before reacting. He has been saying he's uncomfortable about putting an uneven amount of money into each year's salary cap, but he won't say what happens if the club has to absorb the bulk of Pickens' hit next year.

To even it out, they could cut a veteran backup with big cap numbers before Thursday. Running back Ki-Jana Carter counts $2.7 million, but his situation is clouded by another knee injury and Brown said, "We haven't decided what to do with Ki-Jana yet."

The Bengals are getting squeezed with the salary cap. They've got about a $3.2 million pad and Warrick figures to take about $2 million of that once he's signed.

"Norm is coming in from Los Angeles to work out with me Wednesday and then we're coming into talk Thursday and are hopeful we can get it done," Gould said this afternon from his Cincinnati office. "We're going to try. Why not? Everyone wants him in on time."

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