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Akili May Be Headed To Camp

The Cincinnati Bengals and holdout quarterback Akili Smith, despite being unable to agree on money, have agreed on the structure of a contract that would get the No. 3 overall pick into training camp.

Friday, the Bengals agreed to void the last year of a seven-year contract if Smith played in 55 percent of the team's plays in three of the first six years.

The Bengals then thought that Smith's agent, Leigh Steinberg, would agree to a financial package similar to the seven-year, $54 million deal that No. 2 pick Donovan McNabb agreed to with the Philadelphia Eagles, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Sunday.

Removing a year from the contract would drop the Bengals' $49.5 million offer to $41 million. But the Bengals say Steinberg countered with a proposal that would pay Smith more than McNabb in those six years and nearly as much as No. 1 pick Tim Couch for his seven-year, $59 million deal with the Cleveland Browns.

Steinberg said he didn't act in bad faith and that a deal could be reached if the team would stop making the negotiations public.

Bengals negotiator Katie Blackburn said the team will not pay Smith more than McNabb is getting.

The holdout is starting to take on a similar tone to 1992, when the Bengals selected Houston quarterback David Klingler high in the first round.

Klingler held out for much of camp, signing a four-year, $7 million deal a week before the season started. He struggled in the five games he started that season and retired after being cut from the Green Bay Packers last year.

Linebacker James Francis, one of the two remaining Bengals who played with Klingler in '92, said the holdout hurt Klingler.

Steinberg, who also represented Klingler, acknowledged that he and Bengals president Mike Brown hurt Klingler by not agreeing to a deal earlier.

"I have to live with the guilt that I may have played a part in damaging David's career," he said.

But offensive tackle Kevin Sargent, the other remaining Bengals player from 1992, said it isn't fair to compare the players.

"Everybody is different the way they handle things, their personalities and the way they go about their business," he said. "It affected Dave for whatever reaso.

"I don't know Akili, but you can't put any basic correlation to Dave's holding out and what he went through to trying to predict what Akili is going to do."

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