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The Bengals did not apply the franchise tag to pass-rusher Carl Lawson, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. And while they did not tag him, the Bengals would like to sign Lawson to a long-term contract. The clock is ticking, however, as Lawson is slated to become a free agent when the league's new year begins on March 17. 

The 25-year-old Lawson came in at No. 18 on CBS Sports senior writer Pete Prisco's list of the top 100 players slated to enter free agency. During his first four seasons in the league, the 6-foot-2, 265-pound Lawson totaled 20 sacks, 81 tackles and 19 tackles for loss. After starting in just three games during his first three seasons, Lawson broke into the starting lineup in 2020. During his first year as a starter, the former Auburn Tiger tallied 5.5 sacks, 36 tackles and two forced fumbles. 

"He's one of the hardest working guys I've ever played with," Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said of Lawson during the season, via ESPN's Ben Baby. "He just keeps working on his game, keeps progressing and finding every little thing you can do to be successful. It's no surprise he's playing great."

While they will reportedly try to sign Lawson to a long-term deal, the Bengals have other questions as it relates to their defense. Cornerbacks William Jackson III and Mackensie Alexander and linebacker Josh Bynes are also salted to become free agents. There are questions surrounding the future of defensive tackle Geno Atkins, an eight-time Pro Bowler who did not start in a single game in 2020. 

Lawson should have a robust free agency if he hits the open market. The Jets, Jaguars and Colts -- three teams that could use a pass-rushing linebacker -- could be possible landing spots for Lawson.