Sunday, March 21, 2004

Buffalo fit the bill for CB Vincent


Strong veteran core was a key

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Mark Curnutte
So why did Troy Vincent choose Buffalo instead of Cincinnati? Simply put, the free agent cornerback thought the Bills were closer to the Super Bowl than the Bengals.

He agreed to terms Monday.

"I just want to fit in," Vincent said. "I didn't want to go to a place where I was the key, where I was the component that was going to get this team to the Promised Land. I spoke last year in a very similar situation with Hugh Douglass (the ex-Eagles defensive lineman). I said, 'Hugh, the last thing you want to do is go to a place where you have to be the difference because if the team doesn't have success - which they didn't last year in Jacksonville - you become the fall guy.'

"When I made this decision, I looked at London Fletcher, Takeo Spikes, Nate Clements, Drew Bledsoe, Eric Moulds, Sam Adams. I looked at the roster. I know there's talent here. I know we can win. I believe I can be one of the components bringing things together. I have experience. I've made plays in the past. I expect to make plays in the future to help this organization get back to where they once were."

LONGEVITY: Vincent will replace Antoine Winfield in the Buffalo lineup. Winfield signed a $35 million free agent contract with the Vikings.

And because of his age, 26, and the Vikings' healthy salary cap situation, Winfield is more likely to be around long enough to collect all of the money he signed for.

The deal included a $10.8 million bonus. It was originally believed to be a signing bonus, but it is actually a roster bonus, Winfield's Cincinnati-based agent, Richard Katz, said.

The difference is a roster bonus counts entirely against this year's salary cap. A signing bonus would have been spread equally among the six years of the contract.

Winfield's salary cap number for 2004 is $12.5 million - $10.8 million for the bonus and $1.7 million in salary. By structuring the contract that way, the Vikings didn't mortgage their future for the shutdown corner they've wanted for more than a decade.

RINGS GALORE: The Pro Football Hall of Fame couldn't offer confirmation, but Norb Hecker, who died March 13 of cancer, might have won more NFL championship rings than anyone in league history.

Hecker, who was the Atlanta Falcons' first head coach, won one as a player with the Los Angeles Rams, three as an assistant with the Vince Lombardi Packers and four as a 49ers' assistant coach.

JEWELRY MISSING: Ex-Dolphins guard Bob Kuechenberg will cherish the two championship rings that he wears after having four others stolen.

Kuechenberg, a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame the past two seasons, still has his 1972 Super Bowl ring and a 1984 Super Bowl ring honoring his five career appearances. But he discovered recently that four other rings are missing from his collection - a 1973 Super Bowl ring, AFC championship rings from 1971 and 1982, and a 1966 Notre Dame title ring.

AFC NORTH: Even though they lost wide receiver Terrell Owens, the Ravens retained two other players to shore up their offense. Orlando Brown is expected to retain his starting job at right tackle, and quarterback Anthony Wright will be Kyle Boller's backup.

Now that Owens has what he wants - a trade to Philadelphia - and dodged the embarrassment of missing the deadline to void his San Francisco contract, what about Dennis Northcutt? The Browns wide receiver also missed the Feb. 19 deadline, but he won't be able to ride on the Owens' settlement. Northcutt's original contract contained a deadline of Feb. 5 for him to notify the Browns in writing that he was voiding the last three years of his contract to enter free agency.

Before missing the deadline, Northcutt was sitting on an offer from the Browns comparable to what they gave Kevin Johnson a year earlier: four years, $13.35 million, including a $3.5 million signing bonus. After he missed the deadline, the Browns pulled back the offer.

Northcutt has to revert to his original contract, which calls for three more years at an average salary of $696,000.

The Steelers cut punter Josh Miller and signed former Browns punter Chris Gardocki. They had similar statistics, and Pittsburgh saved no money in the moves.

Written from notes submitted by NFL beat writers.




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BENGALS / NFL
Bengals stunned Sapp-less
'We want a lease that's fair'
Curnutte: Buffalo fit the bill for CB Vincent
Steelers keep Logan for reworked secondary

REDS / BASEBALL
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Defending champs nearly lose grip
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NCAA men's tournament at a glance
Wilmington wills its way to first title
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NCAA women's tournament at a glance

TURFWAY PARK
Sinister G's Lane's End victory muddles Derby

PAGE TWO: GOOD SPORTS
XU grad finds place at the table
What's up with that?
A quick chat with ... Julie Isphording
Bolten, Hewitt headed to NCAAs
Local women push teams toward hoops glory
All thumbs
This week's poll question

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