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Bengals DE Geathers gets extension

| Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007

CINCINNATI - Defensive end Robert Geathers' breakout season earned him one of the biggest contract extensions in Cincinnati Bengals history.

Geathers signed a six-year extension Thursday that will pay him $14 million next season in various bonuses and salary, making him one of the team's top-paid players. He can earn $32.5 million in salary and bonuses over the six-year deal.

Incentives linked to sacks and Pro Bowl selections could raised the total to $33.75 million. Geathers had a $425,000 salary last season, his third in the NFL.

He was a restricted free agent after the season, and became a priority after leading the team with 10.5 sacks. Geathers was the first Bengal to have a double-digit sack total since Alfred Williams had 10 in 1992.

The 10.5 sacks were the most by a Bengals player since Eddie Edwards had 13 sacks in 1983.

Agent Bill Johnson and the team began in-depth talks about the extension in the middle of December, and negotiations heated up in the last few days.

"It's a big commitment," Johnson said. "They shared with us all the things you want to hear, about how he's the kind of guy you like to have on the field and in the locker room and the community. And it recognizes that there's a premium on special pass rushers."

Geathers was a fourth-round draft pick from Georgia in 2004. He started one game as a rookie, then moved from left end to the right side in his second season and started every game. The Bengals used him at tackle on passing downs, a move that didn't fit with his strengths.

He dropped 17 pounds in the offseason, allowing him to use his speed as a pass-rushing end.

Geathers' most visible play last season came in the opener, when he hit Kansas City quarterback Trent Green as he slid late at the end of a scramble. Geathers' shoulder hit Green's chest, and the force of the hit drove Green's head backward into the ground.

Green suffered a major concussion on the play, which was not penalized. The league reviewed the play and decided that Geathers had done nothing wrong.

The opening win over Kansas City began to established Geathers' career, which had been known up to that point for his family connections. His uncle, Jumpy, had 62 sacks for New Orleans, Washington, Atlanta and Denver from 1984-96. His father, Robert Sr., was drafted in the third round by Buffalo in 1981.

Now that Geathers is signed, the Bengals have to decide what to do with defensive end Justin Smith, who is a free agent. Smith has led the line in tackles in each of the last five seasons, and finished second to Geathers with 7.5 sacks last season.

The Bengals have been below-average in defense during coach Marvin Lewis' four seasons in Cincinnati. He listed the defense's fade as one of the main disappointments during the Bengals' recent 8-8 finish, which left them out of the playoffs for the third time in his four years.

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