The team has used up approximately $2.74 million of the $5.24 million it was allotted for this year's rookie salary pool. The rookie salary pool is the portion of the overall salary cap ($75.1 million in 2003) that a team may spend on its draft choices for a given year.
Since the biggest fish of this year's class - Palmer - is signed, sealed and delivered, the remaining draftees have a clearer picture of what is left over for them. Don't expect any squabbles over money as the Bengals approach the opening of training camp at Georgetown College on July 27 due to two factors:
1) The rookie pool has remained relatively "flat" compared to the last two years, meaning clubs can look at what players taken in similar spots of those drafts made and figure out the appropriate market value for this year's players.
2) Marvin Lewis is in his first season as the head coach and is giving everyone a legitimate shot to make a lasting impression on him. The last thing a rookie looking to make the roster wants to do is hurt his chances by staying away.
Second-round choice Eric Steinbach (No. 33 overall) and third-rounder Kelley Washington (No. 65) can expect to see the majority of the money that is currently left over, probably in the range of a combined $1 million in terms of cap space.
In Steinbach's case, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney of Houston, the top pick of the second round last year, received a seven-year deal worth $5.38 million that included a signing bonus of $2.15 million. The last three seasons of the contract are voidable based on Gaffney reaching certain playing incentives. His cap value to the Texans last year was $570,643.
The 65th pick of the 2002 draft was wide receiver Deion Branch by New England. The Patriots took him with the last choice of the second round and gave him a five-year deal worth $2.93 million with a signing bonus of just over $1 million. The top pick of the third round, again by Houston, was center Fred Weary. The Texans gave him a signing bonus of $716,000 to go along with a five-year deal (voidable to four) worth $2.6 million.
The Bengals have already been in contact with agents for the other draft picks with varying degrees of discussions.
Jason Chayut, the representative for sixth-round pick Langston Moore, said he has begun preliminary discussions with the team and hopes to have a deal done "sooner than later." Moore is a perfect example of a player who can make a push to earn a roster spot by being in town and working out with the club. He's big (6-foot-1, 303) and fits the mold Lewis is looking for in that he's a young guy with the potential to be a starter in the coming years.
Cornerback Dennis Weathersby, the team's fourth-round pick from Oregon State, has begun physical therapy workouts as he continues to recover from a gunshot wound suffered on Easter Sunday. All indications are he is one pace to be 100 percent ready for training camp.
"Everything sounds good so far," said Steve Caric, spokesman for Premier Sports Management. "He's back working out with weights. His energy level was low due to the amount of blood lost from the shooting but his blood level is back up where it should be."