The NFL remains within the legal tampering period window, which began on Saturday, allowing teams to speak with the agents of players that will become unrestricted free agents this Tuesday. Restrictions prevent teams from talking with the actual players, inviting those players for a visit, or offering a contract. But the parameters for a deal can be discussed between the team and their respective agents.
The window closes at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, when free agency begins and unrestricted free agents can sign with whomever they want. Keep in mind that when you hear about agreements, these are not finalized. Anything can happen before the ink is on the dotted line. Here's where we stand with the Bengals free agents:
ANTHONY COLLINS: According to Aaron Wilson with the Baltimore Sun, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to sign Collins on Tuesday. The projected deal will be between $6.5 million to $7 million annually.
The Cincinnati Bengals are still involved in negotiations. Now that they know how much it will cost to keep Collins, they could make a play to keep him in Cincinnati. We're fairly confident that Collins' agent will call the Bengals on Monday to see if Cincinnati will counter.
If the Bengals finalize a deal to keep Collins, assuming the numbers listed above, he'll make slightly more than Andre Smith's annual $6 million figure but well below Andrew Whitworth, who averages $9.765 million per season.
Cincinnati isn't out of this just yet.
MICHAEL JOHNSON: At one point, interest in Johnson was pretty significant, but those public rumors have slowed.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings were linked to Johnson over the weekend, but both teams seem to be out of the running -- Minnesota resigned Everson Griffen to a five-year deal. Maybe the Vikings still sign Johnson, but that's conjecturing that Minnesota moves Griffen to linebacker. Otherwise why would Minnesota sign Griffen to a $43 million deal if he's not starting?
The Chicago Bears are reportedly interested, but Johnson isn't their first choice -- that title belongs to Seahawks free agent Michael Bennett. However, Chicago tends to make those big-dollar deals and Johnson could easily be featured as their next free agency prize.
Of the other teams that we know that are interested, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will reportedly make a big push. There are other unnamed teams that have expressed interest and the Bengals are still around -- though most likely with a one percent probability.
ANDREW HAWKINS: The interest from the New York Jets is real, but how significant is worthy of discussion.
Keep in mind, New York has the leverage.
They can offer Hawkins whatever deal that they want, without facing any consequence. If the Bengals refuse to match an offer sheet from the New York Jets, New York loses nothing -- Cincinnati placed the lowest tender on Hawkins, which doesn't include draft pick compensation. If Cincinnati matches, New York is back to where they started. Big deal.
We're also not confident that Cincinnati will match a multi-year deal from another team. Figure that A.J. Green will receive a significant extension sooner rather than later. Marvin Jones, the team's No. 2 receiver, will be eligible to receive an extension after the 2014 season -- and if he replicates his production from '13, Jones will see a good amount of money.
When you have a great roster like what Cincinnati has developed, you're going to lose players.
CINCINNATI BENGALS: As far as we know, the Bengals are doing two things... 1) trying to re-sign their own free agents and 2) making exploratory phone calls to potential backup players. Whatever you do, don't nurture the thought that Cincinnati will be in the mix for big-name free agents that will receive significant money in the first few days of free agency.
That's not them. Sorry to break that bit of news to you, newbie.