Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Is Dillon destined for Oakland?


Raiders appear to be team most interested in running back

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Corey Dillon, whose personality and take-no-prisoners style fit the Raider mystique, might be headed to Oakland after all.

The Raiders have emerged as the team most interested in trading for Dillon, and a source close to the situation said the teams have had conversations about the seven-year veteran tailback.

Oakland lost its top running back Tuesday, when free agent Charlie Garner signed a multi-year contract with Tampa Bay, where he will be reunited with his former Raiders coach, Jon Gruden.

Tampa Bay had been a possible Dillon destination until Garner signed. Garner bought out the last year of his Oakland contract for $400,000, leaving the Raiders with Tyrone Wheatley and Ronney Jenkins as their top backs.

Steven Feldman, Dillon's agent, did not return a phone message Tuesday.

Dillon cleaned out his Paul Brown Stadium locker the day after the last game and has said he expects to be playing for a different team this coming season. He has two seasons remaining on his five-year contract with the Bengals.

"I'm looking for a new home," Dillon said Dec. 28, while throwing his equipment in the stands after the season's last game.

Dillon had a career-low 541 rushing yards in 2003, bringing his seven-year total to 8,061 - 28th on the all-time NFL rushing list. He will be 30 on Oct. 24.

The Bengals apparently are ready to make fourth-year pro Rudi Johnson their featured back. A restricted free agent, Johnson received the highest tender offer from the Bengals last week, $1.824 million. If another team signed Johnson to an offer sheet and the Bengals declined to match it, the Bengals would receive first- and third-round draft picks as compensation.

Reached Tuesday, Johnson's agent, Peter Schaffer, said the situation was "status quo."

Johnson is believed to be ready to sign the one-year tender if another offer doesn't come his way. April 16 is the deadline for restricted free agents to sign an offer sheet.

On the unrestricted free agent front, the Bengals continue to discuss a possible contract with Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent. He arrived in Kansas City on Tuesday and will stay through today to meet with the Chiefs. Vincent, a former teammate of Chiefs linebacker Shawn Barber, is making the visit on Barber's behest.

The Bengals appear to be trying to put together a pair of starting safeties in Kim Herring and Rogers Beckett. The Bengals reportedly have made an offer to Beckett, who would play strong safety and leave the versatile Herring to roam as the free safety. Beckett visited the Jets, and Tampa Bay is interested, though no visit has been set up.

Herring received starter's money when he signed with the Bengals on Thursday. He received $1.5 million to sign a five-year contract worth $8.2 million. Base salaries are $1 million, $1.1 million, $1.2 million, $1.4 million and $1.5 million. He has a $100,000 annual workout bonus.

The Bengals appear ready to say farewell to Mark Roman, the starting free safety in 2003, who is talking contract with Green Bay.

The Bengals lost a second member of their offensive line Tuesday when former starting guard Matt O'Dwyer signed a one-year contract with Tampa Bay. He got $25,000 to sign the $660,000 deal, the league minimum.

O'Dwyer, 31, started at right guard in the 2003 opener but lost his job when Mike Goff was moved back to guard and Rich Braham placed into the lineup at center.

O'Dwyer finished the season on the Injured Reserve List because of recurring foot ailments. He played in only four games, a career low.

FREE AGENCY: Day 7

Bengals free agent action Tuesday:

BENGALS CONFIRMED: The organization released no information.

OTHERWISE CONFIRMED: The Bengals continue to negotiate with Eagles free agent cornerback Troy Vincent, who started a two-day visit to Kansas City on Tuesday. Free agent safety Kim Herring received a $1.5 million signing bonus from the Bengals on the five-year, $8.2 million contract he signed Thursday.

GONE: Bengals free agent guard Matt O'Dwyer signed a one-year contract with Tampa Bay. Former Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins visited Carolina after being offered a contract with Pittsburgh.

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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