Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Friday's outline of five players in the AFC North heading into contract years was an idea sparked by a recent interview in minicamp with Cincinnati Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who was the top player on the list.
Coming off a career year, there is some mystery shrouding Houshmandzadeh's contract situation. He tied for the NFL lead with 112 receptions last season, yet the Bengals haven't done any serious negotiations with their Pro Bowl receiver.
"I don't expect anything," Houshmandzadeh said of a contract extension. "So if I don't have any expectations, I can't have any disappointments. If I re-sign, I re-sign and get a new deal. Cool. If I don't that's cool, too."
Barring an unforeseen down year, Houshmandzadeh is going to get a sizable contract from someone next season. Based on the history of the tight-spending Bengals, it doesn't appear it will come from Cincinnati.
The Bengals have done a decent job of grooming talent, only to let players get away. In 2007, Cincinnati lost guard Eric Steinbach in free agency to the Cleveland Browns. This offseason, defensive end Justin Smith signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
Could Houshmandzadeh be the next home-grown talent to exit Cincinnati in 2009?