During those uncharacteristic moments that Cincinnati honored us with rarified insight into their offseason, there was an understanding that the Bengals weren't going re-sign offensive tackle Anthony Collins and defensive end Michael Johnson. They worried about the explosive contracts that free agents sign within 48 hours into free agency. From Cincinnati's perspective, Johnson was going to be expensive and Collins' value wouldn't match-up with the decision-makers at Paul Brown Stadium.
Yet, Cincinnati never really shut the door on re-signing one of their top two free agents. Johnson, the unlikely candidate, was smitten with a $43.75 million deal and $24 million guaranteed in Tampa Bay. Even had Johnson's representatives called Cincinnati to see if they'd match, it was a no-brainer that he was gone. Having Cincinnati countered and won, the Bengals would have had at least $136.477 million ($50.7 million of it guaranteed) tied up with three players on the defensive line.
Collins, on the other hand, remains a possibility. According to multiple reports that surfaced Wednesday night, the Bengals are one of three teams vying for the veteran tackle -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers are the others. The three contracts presented before Collins are comparable, in terms of money, and now he just has to pick one. Does he stay in Cincinnati, where he's called home for six years? Or does he move on to start anew?
FREE AGENT VISIT ON THURSDAY: Cincinnati will host free agent guard Uche Nwaneri, who could be the team's newest free agent, on Thursday. Nwaneri, a former fifth-round pick from the 2007 NFL draft, has started 92 career games and played 104, including all but one in the past six years. Of the Jaguars starting offensive linemen, Nwaneri was the only one that didn't post a horrible Pro Football Focus grade -- scored a -0.3. That being said, PFF gave him a -10.4 run blocking score in 2013.
Injuries and a growing cap number doomed his future in Jacksonville, who released him last week.
We're assuming this: Because Boling's rehabilitation from a torn ACL is offering an unpredictable recovery, the team is planning a contingency if he's not ready. If he's signed, he'd either be the primary backup behind Mike Pollak (who would fill in for Boling at left guard) and Kevin Zeitler, or start at left guard (if Pollak plays center).
DOES AN OFFER SHEET EXIST WITH HAWKINS: Yes. No. Maybe. Who knows. Reports surfaced on Tuesday that the Cleveland Browns had handed an offer sheet to Andrew Hawkins, a restricted free agent with the lowest tender and original round compensation, and that he had intended to sign the four-year deal worth $12.2 million. Within 24 hours, insiders reported that Cincinnati had planned to match the offer, keeping Hawkins in Cincinnati.
There is a suspicion that no contract has actually been signed and sent to Paul Brown Stadium.
Geoff Hobson told the crew on Who Dey Weekly that he believes that a signed deal will show up at Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday, establishing the five-day timeline that Cincinnati has to officially match the deal.
Here's the reality that you need to be concerned with.
If Hawkins signed an offer sheet, the Bengals are planning to match it. If Hawkins planned on signing it, the Bengals are planning to match it. Free agency can present misleading and sometimes bad information. The end result is that the Bengals are planning to keep Hawkins in Cincinnati (as we know it today).
S Taylor Mays
WR Brandon Tate
OG Mike Pollak
DE Michael Johnson (Buccaneers)
C Kyle Cook (released)
OG Uche Nwaneri