There was never a doubt, really.
Mike Nugent, of Centerville, Ohio, and Ohio State, could never really see himself becoming a free agent when the gates open Tuesday and he won't because the Bengals are expected to announce his two-year deal Monday after it was widely reported Sunday.
"I don't know how the Browns see it," said Nugent Sunday night from his Phoenix area-home as he talked about ownership. "But I almost see it as like dealing with family. A few minor things here and there and you know it's going to get worked out."
It's believed the Bengals are going to sign another kicker to compete with him in training camp, but Nugent, holder Kevin Huber, and long snapper Clark Harris have a leg up on their sixth straight Opening Day together under head coach Marvin Lewis.
"I just don't know how often you see that anywhere in the league," Nugent said. "The same head coach, same punter, same long snapper, same kicker? For six years? We depend on each other to do our jobs and that's so important. They've done a really good job here keeping guys together."
Comfort and familiarity drove this one on both sides as the Bengals have secured two of their own targets before the gong rings 4 p.m. this Tuesday. They inked middle linebacker Rey Maualuga to a three-year deal on Friday and they're also trying to get left guard Clint Boling in the fold.
Nugent, who turned 33 last week, eyes his sixth Bengals training camp after five seasons building one of the more successful kicking resumes in club history. His 82.2 field-goal percentage is second behind Shayne Graham's 86.76 and his 111 field goals are 10 shy of fourth place behind Jim Breech (225), Graham (177), Doug Pelfrey (153), and Horst Muhlmann (120).
"It's funny, but I grew up watching Breech and Pelfrey kick and I actually went to a kicking camp where Shaye was one of the counselors when he was in college," Nugent said. "It's kind of cool to be on the same lists as those guys."
Thanks to an early-season slump when he missed six of his first 17 tries, Nugent finished this past season with his lowest field-goal percentage (78.7) since his rookie year when he hit 78.6 with the 2005 Jets. But after missing a 36-yarder that would have beat Carolina at the overtime gun, he hit 15 straight and finished the season 15 of 16 before drilling a 57-yarder near halftime of the Wild Card loss to the Colts that stands as the longest field goal in club history in either the regular or post season.
He heads into this season with the same mindset that he worked on with special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons after the Carolina miss.
"You have to move on after a miss," Nugent said. "You can't be thinking about what you did wrong. You have to be thinking about the next kick. I've always taken pride in being able to bounce back after a miss and I think that's something I got really good at last season."
Nugent is on track to become the Bengals' second oldest kicker. Breech was 36 when he finished as the club's all-time scorer in 1992. With the Pro Bowl in Phoenix a couple of months ago, Nugent drove to the hotel to visit Huber and ended up in a 10-minute conversation with Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, back in the all-star game at age 42.
"It's a great experience to sit down and talk to a guy like that," Nugent said. "I was asking him about how he was able to keep it going and he was talking about how you have to be smart. You can't go out and kick 40 balls every day for a week. You can't put 320 pounds on the squat bar all the time. He's doing Pilates and stuff like that and it was good to get feedback from a guy like that who's still able to get to the Pro Bowl at 42."