Carl Powell is the first free-agent to join the Marvin Lewis Bengals and why not? The man who very well could be the Opening Day left defensive end is just the kind of guy Lewis wants for his blue-collar blueprint to turn around a franchise.
Powell isn't a big-name guy from a big-name school who has more signing bonuses than tackles and has his mail forwarded each February to the Pro Bowl. He's advertised as all-out, high-motor, athletic, tough, smart, and has overcome the adversity of injuries and the waiver wire. A role player for a coach who wants 11 role players for a defense where no one is going to wander off on his own.
"I feel real comfortable with Marvin. It's an honor to go play in ‘The Jungle,'" Powell said Saturday after agreeing to a two-year deal. "I know Marvin is going to do special things there. He's looking for guys that are accountable and who know what their role is in the scheme. When you play with confidence, you make plays you might not normally make."
The Bengals, waiting on the paperwork, didn't comment on the signing, but it was confirmed by agent Jerrold Colton and Powell. The logistics were complicated because Powell is spending the weekend in Las Vegas.
Powell, 29, has been told he'll have a spin at the left end spot that has been manned by the injury-plagued Vaughn Booker. It looks to be a forerunner of revamping the front line _ and possibly the front seven _ financially and athletically. On Saturday, word in the agent community is that linebacker Takeo Spikes is headed to Buffalo Monday for his first recruiting visit.
With the 35-year-old Booker missing more games than he played last season, the Bengals look to be making a financial trade. It's believed Powell got $500,000 up front in a deal that totals about $1.8 million. Booker is scheduled to make $2 million this year, but if they cut him they'll save about $800,000 on the cap, more money to put into a big-name tackle, possibly Sam Adams.
But much of the 6-2, 274-pound Powell's attraction is his ability to play all four spots. He made his first six starts in the NFL last season for the defense Lewis coordinated in Washington, making at least one start each at both tackle spots and right end. He had 31 tackles (21 solos) and three sacks, the third most sacks on the line behind end Bruce Smith with nine and tackle Daryl Gardener with four.
"I'm comfortable where ever they want to play me," Powell said. "People might not know my name now, but I think they'll find out at training camp."
Powell knows he owes a big part of his career to Lewis. In 2001, he played every game for the Bears as a backup tackle and had 15 tackles before Lewis brought him to Washington.
After sitting out the 1999 season, Powell joined the 2000 Ravens when Lewis was the defensive coordinator of a unit that set several NFL records and led Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory. Powell was active for some games, but didn't play. He came into the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Colts out of Louisville in the 1997 draft but battled injured reserve and other hurts when he tried to get on the field in NFL Europe, and then didn't play in '99.
"I feel like my whole career is in front of me," Powell said. "I see it as an opportunity, where I've got a chance to start and be a part of something special."
Powell, a junior college transfer, played at the University of Louisville and had 11 sacks as a senior, but he still calls Detroit home.
Powell feels like Cincinnati is home, too. Not only is Lewis here, but his position coach from last season, Ricky Hunley, is the Bengals linebackers coach.
"Marvin is a great teacher," Powell said. "He took our defense last year, simplified it, and we still ended up fifth in the league. He didn't even scratch the surface and we still finished that high. He's a real motivator."