The Cincinnati Bengals took the first step toward securing the future of their offensive line on Friday afternoon, reaching agreement with starting right guard Bobbie Williams on a three-year extension that puts him under contract through the 2009 season.
Like every other starter on the Bengals' blocking unit, Williams was entering the final year of his existing contract in 2006 and would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring had the extension not been completed.
The six-year veteran, who has started all 32 games since arriving in Cincinnati in 2004, was scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.55 million in 2006. Complete details of the extension were not yet available, but the three additional seasons are believed to be worth $10 million to $11 million. The contract likely will be signed and filed with the league office next week.
Cincinnati officials have also been actively negotiating with Williams' running mate, left guard Eric Steinbach, and left tackle Levi Jones, on extensions. Center Rich Braham and right tackle Willie Anderson are also going into the final season of their respective contracts, and extending deals for at least some of the team's blockers has been an offseason priority for Bengals management.
Williams, 29, signed with the Bengals as an unrestricted free agent in 2004, after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, who chose him in the second round of the 2000 draft. The former University of Arkansas star started in only one game for the Eagles in his first three seasons, and then started 11 contests in 2003, his final season with the club.
A solid drive-blocker with excellent in-line strength, Williams immediately moved into the Cincinnati starting lineup and has been a fixture on the right side, next to Anderson, his two seasons there. In those two years, the Bengals statistically ranked 17th and 11th in rushing offense and tailback Rudi Johnson ran for an average of 1,456 yards.
For his career, Williams has appeared in 65 games and started in 44 of them.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.