7-1-02, 7:45 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Wide receiver Michael Westbrook's goal of last week to get something done "in three business days," has a shot of coming through.
That would be this Tuesday, which is when Duke Tobin, Bengals director of pro/college personnel, plans to meet near agent Steve Zucker's suburban Chicago home for a sandwich in an afternoon lunch both sides hope yields more than potato chips.
Tobin, a native Chicagoan, is in the area visiting relatives for the Fourth of July and the two decided to mix a little business with pleasure in a bid to sign Westbrook before the Bengals report to training camp July 25.
"The trip may have been warranted anyway, but the way it works out is nice," Tobin said Monday. "We'll just see what happens. I think most of the time you have a better chance to communicate when it's face-to-face."
Tobin has personal knowledge of what Westbrook could mean for a Bengals' offense that seeks a veteran
wide receiver with big-play abilities. With Darnay Scott's unknown health (sore shin?) and economics ($3 million salary cap hit for 2002), possibly pushing him out of the picture, Westbrook's impressive 40-yard dash time in his June 10 workout at Paul Brown Stadium has been attractive.
Tobin, a backup quarterback at Colorado, helped Westbrook to his most prolific day in college when he came off the bench in the second quarter at Baylor in the early '90s in relief of Kordell Stewart. Both men say Westbrook caught 11 balls on a day Stewart left early with an injured wrist.
"I've seen what he can do first hand and he's still a very impressive player," Tobin said. "He can run, he can still explode, and he keeps himself in tremendous shape."
Tobin and Zucker try to move along negotiations that have been snagged on money since last month's workout. Westbrook, who turns 30 on Sunday, watched free-agent receivers like Keenan McCardell ($2.5 million per year) and Derrick Alexander ($1.7 million ) take home better deals early last month.
Even though the Bengals believe they may have the only offer out there on Westbrook at the moment, they raised it slightly last week. They feel it's a good deal for a June free-agent with bonus, above minimum salary, and incentives for the future.
"What drives the market is competition and the point in the season," Tobin said. "What we hope to find is some common ground."