Coach Marvin Lewis hopes to take the franchise in a new direction.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Carson Palmer has heard all the Cincinnati Bengals jokes. He knows their history of ruining young quarterbacks.
He's signing on, anyway.
The Heisman Trophy winner accepted a seven-year contract Thursday with the NFL's worst team, which will make him the No. 1 overall pick in the draft this weekend.
Palmer either is setting himself up as the Bengals' latest failed passer or putting himself at the forefront of the franchise's renaissance under first-year coach Marvin Lewis.
"The talk is that it's completely different. He's changed everything," Palmer said shortly after signing his deal at Paul Brown Stadium. "It's a new era of Bengal football.
"The vibe I got from some of the players and what I've heard in the media is that everything's changed and everything's headed in the right direction."
By getting Palmer signed two days before the draft, Lewis took the franchise in a new direction. The Bengals had a history of nasty negotiations with top picks, who wound up missing valuable time in training camp.
Lewis made it a priority to obtain a pre-draft agreement that sets a precedent for the franchise and allows Palmer to start learning the offense before he's formally picked.
"We're excited to go forward, to get Carson here as quick as we can and to get him moving forward with our football team," Lewis said. "It was something that was important to him, and obviously it's important to us."
It's vital that the Bengals get it right this time.
Palmer is the third high-profile quarterback they've taken during their 12-year run as the league's worst team. They moved up to take David Klingler sixth overall in 1992 and got Akili Smith third overall in 1999.
Klingler missed all of training camp and Smith missed most of the preseason drills because of contract disputes.
The Bengals insisted that neither would play as a rookie, but instead, their teams struggled and president Mike Brown decided to start getting a return on his investments. Both were thrown into the lineup with little preparation, took a beating and never recovered.
As he wrapped up his career at Southern California, Palmer started getting other people's opinions on his NFL future. Whenever the Bengals came up, they got badmouthed.
"I have heard a lot of that," Palmer said. "Once the Senior Bowl got over, I heard a lot of negativity."
Agent David Dunn said the Bengals have some talented young receivers and offensive linemen and a new direction under Lewis, who plans to let Palmer sit for at least one year behind Jon Kitna.
Beginning of fork
"There are times in every organization's life when you hit a crossroads, you hit a key juncture," Dunn said. "This organization is clearly wandering down a different road than they've wandered down before. And it's nice to be at the beginning of the fork in that road."
The Bengals narrowed their choices to Palmer, quarterback Byron Leftwich and cornerback Terence Newman. All three visited Cincinnati in the last two weeks to meet the Bengals' coaches and the owners.
They settled on Palmer last weekend, and Dunn came to town to start negotiations on a contract that includes $14 million in bonuses.
Palmer got a $10.01 million signing bonus and will receive another $4.01 million roster bonus in 22 months. The contract will turn into a six-year deal if he's in for 35 percent of the plays in any season.
Palmer can make roughly $40 million in bonuses and base salary over six years, with escalators that could take it to $49 million. He'll get $18.25 million in the first three years through bonuses and salary.
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