There's never been any doubt that the Bengals want to keep Atkins. The question has always been whether the Bengals can get the deal done.
Striking a long-term deal with Atkins is about more than keeping the game's best defensive tackle. It would be a sign to fans and the rest of the league that this team is committed to keeping its young stars.
The Bengals have faced criticism for not using more of their salary-cap space in free agency. The explanation has been that the team is saving that room to keep the young talent on the team. Reaching an agreement with Atkins would send a strong message, showing the Bengals can make a plan and follow through with it.
You can make the case that the Bengals have the leverage because they can use the franchise tag on Atkins next season. But it would be in the Bengals' best interest to get a deal done sooner rather than later. The 2014 offseason is shaping up to be an important one because wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton are entering the final years of their deals next season. There would be a lot less pressure on the Bengals if they have their best defensive player taken care of before starting talks with the two key figures on offense.
Atkins is scheduled to make $1.423 million this year, the final season of his rookie deal. Based on the deals given to Haloti Ngata and Ndamukong Suh, Atkins is probably looking for a deal that averages around $11 million per season.