Sunday, June 04, 2000

Warrick deal expected today


Contract '95 percent' worked out

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        With the framework of a deal in place, the Bengals and Peter Warrick's agents hope to cement a contract today.

        “We're 95 percent of the way there,” said James Gould, one of Warrick's agents. “By the end of the day (today), I'm confident we can close that gap.”

        The sides have agreed on the numbers, a deal expected to be worth $40 million to $42 million. Structure and language issues are all that remain.

        “I'm optimistic the pieces are in place,” said Katie Blackburn, the Bengals' executive vice president and lead negotiator.

        Working nearly non-stop the past three days, the sides have set tonight as a mythical deadline. Norm Nixon, Warrick's other agent, is expected to return Monday to his Los Angeles home, and Gould also will have to leave his Cincinnati office to travel much of the next two weeks, making it tougher to keep negotiating.

        “If we don't get it done (today), it could be awhile until we do,” Gould said.

        Gould and Blackburn plan to meet early this afternoon. If the talks go well, Nixon — flying back to Cincinnati today after spending Saturday working in New York — will join them in mid-afternoon, and the sides will try to keep going until a deal is done.

        If it is, Gould said he'll attempt to fly Warrick into town for a possible Monday news conference.

        Warrick, the fourth player selected in the draft, would be only the third No.1 choice to reach an agreement, joining Browns defensive end Courtney Brown and Jets tight end Anthony Becht.

        After talks turned rocky

        Friday evening, it wasn't a good night's sleep that helped move negotiations closer to completion. There was little sleep.

        Gould and Nixon ate dinner at 10:45 p.m. Friday, then stayed up until 4 a.m. talking. They called Warrick. They called Warrick's father. They debated possible solutions.

        At 7:45 a.m. Saturday, with Nixon en route to New York, Gould was on the phone with Blackburn. The two are friends, evidenced by the fact Gould coaches the soccer team of Blackburn's 5-year-old daughter, Caroline, and Gould says the friendship helped them press on.

        “When you know somebody and care about them, it's not easy to slam the phone down on them,” Gould said.

        They were able to tie up several of the loose ends left dangling Friday night, when eight hours of talks on a conference call dead-ended.

        “I give Jimmy and Norm credit to be willing to talk now,” Blackburn said. “We always are ready to get guys signed. The whole key is they were willing to sit down now and get to it.”

        What's the hurry? Not just to avoid another holdout — in the last 16 years, the only Bengals first-round picks to report to training camp on time were James Francis (1990) and Dan Wilkinson (1994) — but to get Warrick here before camp to work with the veterans.

        Gould and Nixon plan to have Warrick arrive June 12 for two weeks of voluntary workouts. With the depth chart already listing him as starting wide receiver, he could benefit from honing his timing with quarterback Akili Smith.

        “What's driving this is everybody wants to do this and has worked hard and made this a priority,” Gould said. “We'd all like to have him here, have him settled, have his personal and financial situation settled and have him in sync with the fans. When the season starts, we want everyone to feel he's already a part of this community.”

       



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