Rudi doesn't want franchise tag
Agent says running back will sit if given one-year deal

By Mark Curnutte
Enquirer staff writer

Running back Rudi Johnson wants more than a 1-year deal from the Bengals.

Rudi Johnson would sit out the 2005 season rather than play under a one-year free agent contract designation available to the Bengals.

Peter Schaffer, Johnson's agent, said Friday night that he has told the Bengals that Johnson would not play if the club uses the franchise tag on Johnson.

"He feels he has earned the right not to play for insecurity," Schaffer said. "It's notanti-organization. It's not Corey Dillon. I was very clear: Rudi feels his contributions to the team and his stats warrant that, if he is going to play for the Bengals, that it is not for one year."

Johnson wants a five- or six-year contract with the Bengals, Schaffer said. Johnson can become an unrestricted free agent March 2. He played for a $1.8 million tender as a restricted free agent in 2004 and responded by starting all 16 games and setting franchise records for rushing yards (1,454) and rushing attempts (361).

The franchise tag severely limits a free agent's ability to change teams. The Bengals would have to guarantee Johnson a one-year deal equal to the average of the top five running back salaries in the league - expected to be near $6 million. If another team would sign Johnson as a free agent, the Bengals would receive compensation in the form of two first-round draft picks.

Johnson did not return several phone messages left Friday.

"They felt strongly about securing cornerstone players Willie Anderson (right tackle), Chad Johnson (wide receiver) and Carson Palmer (quarterback) with multi-year contracts," Schaffer said of the Bengals. "Rudi is not saying he does not want to be a Bengal. He wants to be a Bengal for several years."

The Bengals could put the tag on Johnson and then try to trade him.

Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan had no comment Friday night about Schaffer's comments.

Johnson has been a good team player, unlike Dillon, who consistently complained about playing in Cincinnati and tried to manipulate his exit.

The Bengals traded Dillon to New England in April for a second-round pick.