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Saturday, May 11
Bengals agree to deal with third-round pick

By Len Pasquarelli

Never regarded in the past as a proactive franchise, the Cincinnati Bengals are demonstrating uncharacteristic aggressiveness in negotiations with their 2002 draft choices, and the newfound approach has allowed the team to break from the gate with a quick agreement.

Cincinnati reached agreement on Friday evening with third-round choice Matt Schobel, and the former TCU tight end became only the second of the league's 261 choices to land an accord. The other, of course, was former Fresno State quarterback David Carr, the top overall selection in the draft by the expansion Houston Texans.

The deal with Schobel, who likely will challenge for a starting job, is one of the earliest in recent history for a franchise that has rarely set a signings pace.

Schobel, the second overall pick in the third round, will sign a four-year, $2.05 million contract. It includes a signing bonus of $700,000 and base salaries of $225,000 (2002), $300,000 (2003), $375,000 (2004) and $450,000 (2005). The base salaries represent the rookie minimums for the first four years.

The cap value for the 2002 season is $400,000. Cincinnati has been allocated a rookie pool of $3.349 million by the league.

By most standards, the deal appears to be about market value in a year when the rookie pool is flat, essentially the same as a year ago. The per-year average is roughly 7 percent higher than that of Adrian Wilson, the second choice in the third round of the 2001 draft. Wilson signed only a three-year contract.

The cap number is 2.8 percent higher than Wilson's, but much of that increase is because the minimum salary for a rookie rose from $209,000 to $225,000, a jump of 7.6 percent.

On Monday, Cincinnati reached a contract agreement with sixth-round choice Marquand Manuel, a University of Florida safety. Manuel, very impressive in last week's minicamp, agreed to a three-year deal worth about $950,000. The club has also begun negotiations with second-round choice Lamont Thompson, a Washington State free safety who already has been penciled into the starting lineup.

Schobel has played tight end only two seasons full-time, having begun his career at TCU as a quarterback. He had 27 catches for 378 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons. Last year, Schobel had 19 receptions for 310 yards and five scores.

The brother of Buffalo Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel, the Bengals liked Matt Schobel enough to trade up for him in the third round. He was slowed in last weekend's minicamp by a hamstring injury sustained late in 2001.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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