On the first day of free agency, the Browns offered Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins a reported four-year deal worth $12.2 million, but it was thought originally that Cincinnati would match Cleveland's tender and keep its restricted free agent in town.
Instead, the Bengals have decided to let him go.
NEWS: #Bengals decline to match Browns' offer to WR Andrew Hawkins— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) March 18, 2014
The move makes sense from the perspective that Hawkins would have been expensive to keep, considering he's behind A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones on the receiver depth chart. But Hawkins also showed he can be a valuable player when he recorded 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns in 2012 (he was limited to eight games last season and he only made 12 catches for 199 yards).
“I don't want to let Andrew go without making note that he has been a very hard working and contributing player," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. "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.”
In Cleveland, Hawkins figures to take over the role played by former Browns slot receiver Davone Bess.