The Browns must continue to hunt for a slot receiver because the Cincinnati Bengals plan to match the offer sheet on which Cleveland and restricted free agent Andrew Hawkins agreed Tuesday, according to reports.
Hawkins agreed to the four-year, $12.2 million offer sheet, which includes more than $4 million guaranteed, he received from the Browns. But because Hawkins is a restricted free agent, the Bengals have five days to match once he signs any offer sheet.
The Bengals tendered Hawkins for $1.45 million. A Bengals source told NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala Tuesday night that the organization wasn’t likely to match the Browns’ offer.
However, that’s not the case because the Bengals do plan to match the offer after all, NFL Network’s Albert Breer and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this morning.
The Browns need a slot receiver to replace Davone Bess, whose off-field issues led to him being cut last week. They also need a No. 2 receiver to pair with All Pro Josh Gordon.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Emmanuel Sanders, the Denver Broncos’ Eric Decker and the New England Patriots’ Julian Edelman, a Kent State product, are among the free-agent receivers still on the market.
The 5-foot-7, 180-pound Hawkins played in just eight games last year because a high-ankle sprain kept him sidelined for half of the season. He had 12 catches for 199 yards. In 2012, he had 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games. During his first season with the Bengals in 2011, he had 23 catches for 263 yards in 13 games.
Hawkins, 28, went undrafted after his career at the University of Toledo ended in 2007. He went to rookie minicamp with the Browns but didn’t receive a contract. He then spent time in the Canadian Football League before catching on in the NFL with the Bengals.