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Chances on Bengals free agents returning to Cincinnati

We take a player-by-player look at the Bengals free agents and their chances for returning to Cincinnati this offseason.


DE Michael Johnson (UFA): The king of Cincinnati's free agents this year, Johnson isn't expected to return in 2014 after rejecting a $40 million deal last year. Unfortunately, his overall production as a pass rusher dipped while solidifying himself as a very good run defender. In the end, teams pay for quarterback sacks and it'll be interesting to see if the eight-sack drop from 2012 (11.5) to 2013 (3.5), scares a few teams. Minnesota will be a factor. We'll give him a sliver a hope to return, but there's clearly a significant difference of opinion in regards to Johnson's value (and have been dating back to last year).

Chances of returning (1-5 with 5 being almost certain): 1.5

OT Anthony Collins (UFA): I'm not sure if it's just general hope, but if I'm applying a likelihood that Cincinnati brings Anthony Collins back... let's just say, I wouldn't be surprised at all. There is a noticeable momentum to permanently keep Andrew Whitworth at left guard, to the point that if Cincinnati can't re-sign Anthony Collins, there could be an offensive tackle drafted in the first two rounds. Collins will make starter money but we don't see him breaking any banks.

Chances of returning: 3.5

WR Andrew Hawkins (RFA): Had Hawkins not suffered a high-ankle sprain during training camp, and being relatively unproductive when he returned late last season, there would have been a chance that another team packaged an offer sheet to claim him as a restricted free agent -- while I like Hawkins (despite him blocking me on Twitter), I'm not sure that Hawkins' would make anything north of $3 million/year. I expect the team to place a second-round tender on him prior to free agency, giving Cincinnati a second-round pick if the Bengals refuse to match an offer from another team (which I'm not expecting to happen at all).

Chances of returning: 4.99999999

S Chris Crocker (UFA): If Crocker plays next season, it'll either be with the Bengals or Minnesota Vikings, where defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer landed as the team's newest head coach (more Bengals than Vikings). The question with him is whether or not he's planning to retire. These decisions are not made lightly and honestly, I don't see him signing during the offseason.

Chances of returning: 1.5

S Taylor Mays (UFA): With what Mays was able to do under Paul "The Developer" Guenther, converting from a bubble-roster player to a full-time safety/linebacker hybrid, the Bengals have finally found something in Mays. Strong in coverage against tight ends and running backs, with enough of an impact in the running game, Mays renews general interest for a continuing career in Cincinnati. Plus, he lives by three rules.

Acceleration = Distance/Time
Force = Mass x Acceleration
Style = Weird-ass backpacks

Chances of returning: 4

WR Brandon Tate (UFA): Uh oh. There's a discrepancy here. Fans can't stand him. The team wants him back -- at least that's the presiding theory. A returner that's establishing himself within Cincinnati's record book, Tate is a strong candidate to return as a minimum salary signee when the Bengals are looking at their options for returners. I know, I know. Why not Giovani Bernard or Adam Jones? There's only so much they can do and they're much more needed at their respective positions.

Chances of returning: 4

CB Brandon Ghee (UFA): This kid flipped the wrong card in the NFL deck. Injuries stalled his development and veterans further shoved his opportunities to, basically, nothing. Despite all of that, he's strong-willed and talented (when he has those chances). The history of injuries will keep general free agency interest at a minimum. Yet, Cincinnati keeps trying to give this kid chances, and maybe one day fatigue will set in. Returning as a camp body with another chance to make the 53-man roster? I could easily see that. Actually making the roster? Eh.

Chances of returning: 4

LB Vincent Rey (RFA): Once an up-and-coming development player, Rey has gone from a special teamer to a competitive starter after a handful of monstrous games that placed his name in the chapter of first-time ever with three quarterback sacks and an interception in a single game. He's one of the few restricted free agents that I don't envision Cincinnati allowing to leave... at all.

Chances of returning: 5

OG Mike Pollak (UFA): We've said this before. But if there was a list of free agent signees that surprised us, Pollak would be near the top of that collection. When offensive starters Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler were dealt with their respective injuries throughout the season, Pollak's production lessened that blow. If a team makes a push to sign him as a starter, Cincinnati will not turn it into a war, allowing him to leave. If not, we're certain that Cincinnati will try to bring him back.

Chances of returning: 3.5

TE Alex Smith (UFA): Another quality veteran productive enough for spot duty, Smith will likely be offered something from Cincinnati -- and having ended his season on IR, interest won't be significant (it wouldn't have been anyway). He's the team's third tight end and will be offered a deal at some point.

Chances of returning: 4

WR Dan Sanzenbacher (RFA): Cincinnati will probably assign an original-round tender on Sanzenbacher and if he signs an offer sheet with a new team, I doubt the Bengals will retain him. While he's a good player, strong slot guy, productive special teamer, there's just a lack of room. Even if they sign him, at best, he's the team's fifth receiver behind A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Hawkins. That being said, he will be tendered. The only question is if another teams signs him to an offer sheet.

Chances of returning: 3.5

OT Dennis Roland (UFA): He's the Chris Crocker of the offensive line. However, Roland will probably participate in training camp, then get released during final cuts. Don't worry Roland fans (I'm talking you, Bobby Gent Johnson Jones). The Bengals will certainly keep him on speed-dial if the offensive line is dealing with an injury situation.

Chances of returning: 3.5

P Zoltan Mesko (UFA): Puppies and speedos are life choices. As is the team's decision to elect Kevin Huber and, most likely, continue developing Quinn Sharp.

Chances of returning: 0.1

DT Ogemdi Nwagbo (UFA): Since the timeline for Geno Atkins' is questionable for a training camp return, the Bengals will probably stock-pile at defensive tackle -- at the very least, as a camp body.

Chances of returning: 3.5