Bengals make $4 million offer to free agent Sapp
Updated: Wednesday March 17, 2004 1:16AM
By Don Banks, SI.com
Dormant for the first two weeks of free agency, the marketplace for Warren Sapp's services is picking up. League sources say the Cincinnati Bengals have opened negotiations with Sapp's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and the team is believed to have made the Tampa Bay Buccaneers free-agent defensive tackle at least one contract offer.
The Bengals are said to have tendered Sapp a four-year contract at around $4 million per season. That's about twice the amount most league observers expected Sapp, 31, to generate at this point in his career.
Those close to the situation in Cincinnati say a contract agreement doesn't appear to be imminent, and that the Bengals and Sapp are still in the preliminary stages of their negotiations. Cincinnati has no plans for Sapp to visit until talks progress to a point where a deal is within reach.
Kansas City is another team that is stepping up its interest level, and the Chiefs were in contact with Rosenhaus on Tuesday. Other teams at least monitoring Sapp's situation include Baltimore, Oakland and Chicago. The Ravens and Raiders are only interested in Sapp if his market comes back to their price range of around $2 million per year.
Rosenhaus said at least seven teams are legitimately interested in Sapp, and that it's his belief that a deal will be in place somewhere by the end of the week.
"I feel this is a contract that's headed into the homestretch,'' Rosenhaus said Tuesday evening. "Not to say we're sold on any one team or any one particular offer. But my instinct as an agent is this is going to be finalized one way or another by the end of the week. I think by then he'll be at somebody's press conference and be holding up somebody's jersey.
"But there are a lot of variables, and contracts are just one of them. Warren cares about the organization, the coaches, the team's chances of winning.''
Tampa Bay has said it would like to re-sign Sapp, but it has yet to make him an offer, a situation that prompted Rosenhaus to speak out last week and cast doubt about his client's chances of returning for a 10th season with the Bucs. There is thought to be little likelihood of Sapp ever receiving any interest from Tampa Bay.
The Bengals are moving cautiously with Sapp until they figure out if they are a good fit for one another. But that deliberation is somewhat belied by their offer. It's likely that the Bengals, despite their breakthrough 8-8 season under first-year head coach Marvin Lewis in 2003, still feel they have to overpay in order to entice name free agents.
In the first two weeks of free agency, Sapp has sat by and watched a bevy of defensive tackles snap up deals around the league. Cornelius Griffin in Washington, Robaire Smith in Texas, Rod Coleman in Atlanta, and Ted Washington in Oakland were the big names, and mid-level free agents such as Steve Martin (Minnesota), Fred Robbins (N.Y. Giants), Brian Young (New Orleans), Josh Williams (Indianapolis) and Cedric Woodward (Seattle) also landed new contracts.
While Sapp's reputation has exceeded his game the past two seasons, he is still considered a potential impact player who has reached the point in his career where something less than every-down duty is the likely way to go. But perhaps the Bengals have more in mind for him, given the size of their opening offer.
Once one of the game's premier pass-rushers, Sapp's production has declined. From 1998-2000, Sapp had 36 sacks, great numbers for a defensive tackle. In the next three seasons, he totaled just 18 1/2 sacks.