Just a month after securing the long-term services of left offensive tackle Levi Jones with a pricey contract extension, Cincinnati Bengals officials are working on a deal that might allow rightside counterpart Willie Anderson to finish his career with the team.
While an agreement is not imminent, ESPN.com has learned that the Bengals have proposed a three-year extension for Anderson, a three-time Pro Bowl performer and one of the team's leaders on and off the field. Anderson, 31, is seeking a five-year extension, and his financial expectations are higher than what the club has offered so far, but the two sides are expected to continue the discussions.
"At least we're talking again," said agent Terry Bolar, who visited with Cincinnati officials last week. "As long as there is some [dialogue] going on, there's always a chance something can happen, but we certainly aren't where we need to be yet."
A 10-year veteran and the Bengals' first-round choice in the 1996 draft, Anderson is entering the final year of his current contract. Without a contract extension, Anderson would be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring.
Even at his age, and with balky knees, Anderson would likely generate solid interest around the league if he went into free agency. Right tackles aren't as much in demands as are left tackles, of course, but Anderson has played at a high level throughout his career, even if it took the Bengals' recent success to finally garner him the attention that eluded him earlier.
The former Auburn star has been selected for three straight Pro Bowl appearances and was elected to the All-Pro team by the Associated Press each of the last two seasons.
Anderson has indicated he prefers to finish his career in Cincinnati, but Bolar has begun to prepare him for the possibility of free agency. Anderson is scheduled to earn about $5 million for the 2006 season.
A fixture on the Cincinnati offensive line since the Bengals chose him with the 10th overall pick in the '96 draft, Anderson has played in 158 games and started in 152 of them. Only in 1999, when he missed two contests with foot and ankle injuries, has Anderson failed to appear in all 16 games in a season. Anderson has started 96 straight games.
On July 25, the Bengals signed Jones to a six-year extension worth slightly in excess of $40 million, with $16.3 million in guarantees, a deal that made him the fourth-highest paid offensive lineman in the league. Earlier in the spring, Cincinnati signed starting right guard Bobbie Williams to a three-year extension.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.