Saturday, January 06, 2001

Dillon set to test market

RB seeking bigger signing bonus

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Bengals would need to pay Corey Dillon $7 million a year plus a signing bonus between $12 million and $20 million to possibly prevent him from testing the free agent market.

        Dillon is expected to make that amount of money as a free agent, based on what other top position players have received in recent months, a source close to the situation told The Enquirer.

        Neither Bengals president Mike Brown nor David Levine, Dillon's agent, would comment Friday on the negotiations.

        The Bengals made what Brown called a “strong” offer to Dillon. The proposal was rejected because it was too low, particularly the signing bonus. Dillon, who can become an unrestricted free agent March 2, now appears headed for the open market.

        The Bengals have the right to match any offer if, by March 1, they tender Dil lon a one-year offer of about $4 million — estimated to be the average of the top 10 salaried NFL running backs.

        Brown has said the Bengals will tender Dillon an offer if he has not signed and put the transition tag on him.

        “If we can't sign Corey, we will reserve sufficient cap room to meet what someone else might do,” Brown said.

        Chicago, Cleveland and Kansas City have been men tioned as the teams most interested in Dillon. The Bengals tried to trade him to the Chiefs after the 1999 season for a first-round draft pick.

        Dillon missed 20 days of this past training camp before agreeing on a one-year, $3 million deal with the Bengals. At that time, Dillon wanted “Eddie George mon ey.” The Tennessee running signed a seven-year, $41.25 million contract extension in July that included a $12 million signing bonus.

        Dillon had the best season of his four-year career. He rushed for a Bengals-record 1,435 yards, set a single-game NFL rushing record of 278 yards and was voted to his second consecutive Pro Bowl.

        The Colts' Edgerrin James is the league's highest-paid running back at $7 million a year.

        The signing bonus expected to be awaiting Dillon in free agency is in line with those paid to other top players.

        Quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe of the Patriots and Brett Favre of the Packers are seeking $20 million bonuses to sign contract extensions with their teams.

        Charlie Batch, the Lions' quarterback, received a $13 million signing bonus when he agreed to a four-year, $31 million extension this past fall.

        Jonathan Ogden, a Baltimore offensive tackle who's regarded as the NFL's best, got $12 million to sign a six-year contract extension worth $44 million. NFL insiders say the bonus was closer to $16 million.

        Signing bonuses are rising rapidly because they are the only guaranteed money in an NFL contract. Other sports, such as baseball and basketball, guarantee the player's entire contract.


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