3-06-01 10:50 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
The name Tony Williams won't sell out Paul Brown Stadium.
But it sold the Bengals coaches more than a month ago when they built their free-agent board and put the former Viking second among available defensive tackles.
With trips to Cleveland and Seattle planned, Williams wasn't only known in the Bengals' room.
"I look at that No. 94," said Falcons running back Jamal Anderson before the NFC championship game two years ago, "and I see another John Randle."
The Vikings wanted more consistency from Williams during his four years in Minnesota. But Bengals defensive line coach Tim Krumrie says Williams is going to give this defense more consistency with his 290-pound athleticism.
And while they coveted Ted Washington's Pro Bowl force against the run, the Bengals weren't sure he could play beyond two seasons.
It was Williams' age (he won't turn 26 until July 9) and ability to rush the passer that pushed the Bengals to make him their first free-agent signing. Bengals vice president Paul H. Brown consummated the four-year, $11 million deal with agent Jimmy Sexton just before Williams got on a plane to visit the Cleveland Browns.
In a poll of eight NFL personnel people who were asked to rate draftable defensive linemen and veteran free-agents by cbssportsline.com, Williams finished ahead of the NFL's Washington, Chester McGlockton and D'Marco Farr and behind Dana Stubblefield, Jason Ferguson and Chad Eaton. Williams finished seventh on a list topped by Florida's Gerard Warren.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., had him rated sixth on his list of free-agent tackles with the observation, "Williams is able to generate some push inside, but lacks desired consistency. If he ever develops it, the team that signs him could end up with a pretty good contributor."
Williams' work on tape sold Krumrie.
"I like his work ethic," Krumrie said. "He's a high-motor guy who goes all-out, all the time. A good guy. He's fit. He gets up the field and runs people down."
Krumrie, who wanted to draft Williams when he came out of Memphis in 1997, compares him to the man who will play next to Williams for the next four years in tackle Oliver Gibson. They both got paid well for going all out. Before last season's final game, Gibson signed a contract extension with a $4 million bonus.
"I've seen him play and I've liked him," Williams said. "That's how I play."
They are different players. Gibson gets a decent pass rush for a 315-pounder, but he's the Bengals' run stuffer.
Krumrie says Williams will be able to stay on the field on passing downs with Gibson, or possibly end Vaughn Booker sliding next to Williams in the nickel package.
The signing puts tackle Tom Barndt on the bench a year after signing a five-year $11 million deal. That's where he spent much of this past season with a torn bicep muscle he suffered just before the pre-season opener, but he'll still get time in Krumrie's rotation that got blistered last year with injuries.
The Bengals admired the way Barndt
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played in pain, but there is concern if he doesn't bounce back this season that the Bengals would get hammered on the run in the Eddie George-Fred Taylor-Jamal Lewis-Jerome Bettis division.
"(Williams) isn't gong to play every down," Krumrie said. "Guys are going to get rotated through. But he makes us better and deeper. I really like his attitude."
The attitude is much like the one Krumrie has kept after he stopped playing for the Bengals.
While Williams waited for Brown to draw up his contract, he huddled with Krumrie in the coach's office going over the Bengals' personnel on tape. They jostled each other in the elevator like the former top high school wrestlers they are and Krumrie kidded Williams about his height by asking him if he stood on a phone book as a picture was snapped of the two.
"I hit it off with Coach Krumrie when he came down to scout me for the draft," Williams said. "We just clicked. I think it's a good place for me."
It's place where now, everyone knows his name