We know about the approaching contract discussions concerning Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, and Carlos Dunlap... all of whom will be unrestricted free agents after 2013.
Reading the tea leaves, the market value between Johnson and the Bengals is too vast to expect an extension prior to the July 15 deadline (last day franchise players can sign extensions before next year). We're less concerned about Atkins, who figures to be the leading candidate for the franchise tag. Dunlap could go any direction. Durability issues may hold his market value back, but a breakout season in 2013 ditches that argument entirely.
Fourteen players currently on the team's roster will be exclusive-rights free agents next season. Considering all are undrafted free agents that were signed after the NFL draft, there's no concern there. Even if a handful of those players stick around, the Bengals have "exclusive rights to those players" anyway.
What about the rest?
ANDREW HAWKINS, WR
Luckily Hawkins is entering his third season, making him a restricted free agent. However, he may be tendered something in the neighborhood of a second-round tender if his production is similar to the first two seasons.
ANTHONY COLLINS, OT
An invaluable backup linemen that's started at left and right tackle since joining the team during the 2008 NFL draft. Collins signed a two-year deal in 2012 that was heavily back-loaded into this season. Along with a $1.8 million base salary, Collins carries a $2.125 million cap hit. In my opinion, worth the cost for having quality depth and worth an extension.
BRANDON GHEE, CB
There's something about Brandon Ghee that I simply can't scratch out my mind. When he's healthy, we see the talent. But the question about health has held his career into a massive no-show. He's playing on a minimum contract that offers more reward than risk. Provided that he stays healthy, the bottom half of the team's cornerback roster is a possible landing zone for Ghee.
CHRIS PRESSLEY, FB
Visions of Orson Charles dominating a position battle against Chris Pressley has landed the fullback on the no-lock zone. Still, Pressley is the team's best natural fullback and if Cincinnati is serious about improving the running game, you can't replace Pressley with a tight end. Pressley's cap number hits $1 million this season.
JEROMY MILES, S
For the second time in as many seasons, Miles will compete against Taylor Mays to start opposite Reggie Nelson. However, we see this year playing out like last year. Despite the competition a third player will become the regular starer. Last year it was Chris Crocker. This year it's probably going to be rookie Shawn Williams. That being said, Miles is a good special teams player worth having on the roster.
BRANDON TATE, WR
Even before saying a word, most of you have broken your silence with demands that he's released. So what if he holds the best punt return average in franchise history. Release. Tate signed a minimum one-year deal worth $715,000 this offseason with a $966,000 cap number.
DENNIS ROLAND, OT
An old dog that keeps enough of a bite to find places on the 53-man roster. Despite his issues in pass protection, Roland is a mauler as a run blocker, earning a role as the sixth offensive linemen during jumbo packages. However, Roland has his greatest challenge to date with the arrival of similarly built rookie Reid Fragel. He could be a casualty.
JAMAAL ANDERSON, DE
Signing a two-year deal in response to the departures of Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker, Anderson was quickly sidelined last season with a season-ending injury. Often forgotten today due to the saturating talent at defensive end, at one point Anderson came into the league as a promising pass rusher. Instead, he carries a $2.5 million base salary and $2.7 million against the cap. Could be gone before the start of the season.