Source: Bengals 'far apart' on contract with draft pick Rivers

Updated: August 4, 2008, 12:36 PM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

The Cincinnati Bengals and first-round pick Keith Rivers are still "far apart" in contract negotiations, a source told ESPN.com Sunday. Rivers, the No. 9 overall pick in April's NFL draft, has missed the entire first week of training camp with Cincinnati.

Keith Rivers

Rivers

The two sides remain in constant negotiations. The source added that talks could improve dramatically at any time, but as of Sunday afternoon the team was not close to striking a deal with Rivers.

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie defensive end Derrick Harvey, the No. 8 pick, and Rivers remain the only unsigned first-rounders. Jacksonville's inability to sign its top pick one spot ahead of Cincinnati is also slowing negotiations with Rivers, the source said.

Rivers is the favorite to win a starting job at outside linebacker for Cincinnati and is considered one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft. Depending on how long the holdout continues, he will have to make up a lot of ground once he arrives.

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"A lot of this stuff we've already gone over, so he's heard it once through the minicamp," Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told ESPN.com last week. "But now is when it's starting to get critical for him, because it's all starting to come together. Even if he came out tomorrow, he's got to learn [multiple] days of install in one day. So he's way behind the eight ball now. It's going to be tough."

Third-year linebacker Brandon Johnson currently is getting reps with the first team at outside linebacker, but he is not considered the long-term solution. Cincinnati finished last season ranked No. 27 in overall defense, prompting the Bengals to select Rivers as their future cornerstone on defense.

James Walker covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

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ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter