Wilson or Bengals cornered?

3-27-02, 12:40 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

If last week's Artrell Hawkins' signing put a serious crimp in the plans to add a Pro Bowl quarterback's salary, then Tuesday night's agreement with Colts cornerback Jeff Burris took the Bengals out of any chance for a major deal.

ESPN.com reported Burris' three-year, $4.5 million contract included a signing bonus of $1 million. His hit under this year's salary cap figures to be about $1 million, which according to national figures gives them $6 million to spend. With $3.5 million headed to the rookie pool, the Bengals have just enough room to sign another player.

They have been talking to their own Reinard Wilson, but indications from around the league Tuesday night were that they weren't going to sit around much longer waiting for the rush right end and are now also pursuing Dolphins defensive end Lorenzo Bromell.

The 6-6, 270-pound Bromell, a fifth-year player from Clemson, had

6.5 of his 21.5 career sacks last season in a year he rebounded from having just two. He led all rookies with eight sacks in 1998, when Bromell tied Bill Stanfill's 30-year club rookie record.

Wilson led the Bengals with a career-high nine sacks this past season, his best of a five-year career in which he has 24 career sacks.

David Levine, Wilson's agent, has said he wants to make a deal by Friday. He couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. As of late last week, the Colts had appeared to be the only other team interested in Wilson.

Published reports continue to link the Bengals with a trade for Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe even though other published reports say he doesn't want to play in Cincinnati.

Even if he did, Bledsoe would have to re-negotiate a contract that calls for him to get $5 million this year because the Bengals don't seem to have the room. They could cut someone or re-negotiate with others, but the Bengals traditionally don't do that to clear room.

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