CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cincinnati Bengals declined to match the Cleveland Browns’ offer sheet to restricted free agent wide receiver Andrew Hawkins on Tuesday.
Hawkins, 28, signed a 4 year, $13.6 million offer from the Browns on Thursday, March 13 and Cincinnati had until Tuesday at midnight to make their decision. The Bengals were required to submit paperwork to the league office only if they matched the sheet, but could have just simply let the deadline pass quietly.
Hawkins, who essentially replaces Davone Bess, joins tight end Jim Dray and running back Ben Tate as the offensive free agent additions this offseason.
“What we’re doing is finding talented players that can be good starters in this league, and guys that can compete to push those guys that end up being the starters,” general manager Ray Farmer said in a statement. “These acquisitions are about steadying our ship and moving Cleveland closer to competing in our division and competing for championships.”
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis issued a statement on the decision to let Hawkins go.
“I don’t want to let Andrew go without making note that he has a very hard-working and contributing player,” Lewis said. “He has set a great example of being a great teammate. But we’re fortunate to have a lot of depth at wide receiver, and we’re excited to move forward. Our leading receivers from last year will all return, and we have another group who know our system and have earned our confidence that they are ready to see more action.
“It’s a given that we will invest in players to the limit of the salary cap, but the system means teams have to make choices, and we don’t believe this match, at this time, would serve our goal of allocating resources roster-wide for the best possible team come September.”
Hawkins took to Twitter to thank the Bengals as well as express his excitement over officially joining the Browns.
“Cant thank the Cincinnati Bengals Organization & fans enough for giving me my first fair shot at the best job in all the land…” Hawkins tweeted. “Forever grateful is an understatement. 1st class is another…That being said, excited to join the Browns (where it all started) & giving all I got to help bring championship football back to Cleveland!”
Newly signed running back Ben Tate as well as quarterback Brian Hoyer quickly took to Twitter to welcome Hawkins to Cleveland.
The 5-foot-7, 180-pound slot receiver has totaled 86 catches for 995 yards and 4 touchdowns in 3 seasons with the Bengals. He caught 12 passes for 199 yards in 8 games after returning from an ankle injury last season.
“Like Coach Pettine has articulated, we want guys that play like Browns,” Farmer said. “And we feel like every player we’ve added in free agency embodies the characteristics we want: Passion, toughness, relentlessness, competitiveness, accountability and productivity.”
The Bengals reportedly tendered Hawkins for $1.45 million, but because he went undrafted the Browns don’t owe the Bengals any draft-pick compensation.
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