3:57pm: The deal is officially in the books, with the Browns announcing the signing (via Twitter).
2:15pm: According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the Bengals have officially decided not to match Hawkins’ offer sheet, meaning the wide receiver will join the Browns on a four-year, $13.6MM deal.
MARCH 18, 12:18pm: The NFL has informed the Browns that the Bengals have until midnight eastern tonight to decide whether or not to match Hawkins’ offer sheet, tweets Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.
12:22pm: As I speculated below, the Bengals are now leaning toward not matching the Browns’ offer sheet for Hawkins due to its structure, tweets Albert Breer of the NFL Network.
MARCH 13, 11:54am: Hawkins has officially signed his offer sheet with the Browns, giving the Bengals five days to match it, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. According to Rapoport, the terms of the sheet are slightly different than reported below, with $10.8MM of the $13.6MM total owed to Hawkins in the first two years of the four-year deal. That could make it a little trickier for Cincinnati to match, so we’ll have to wait and see if that changes the Bengals’ plans at all.
MARCH 12, 8:29am: The Bengals intend to match the offer sheet restricted free agent Andrew Hawkins signed with the Browns, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The deal, which Cincinnati initially appeared unlikely to match, is a four-year contract worth $12.2MM, with a potential max value of nearly $15MM. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and National Football Post provided additional details on the offer last night.
The Bengals originally retained their right of first refusal with Hawkins by placing the $1.431MM RFA tender on him. The wide receiver was an undrafted free agent, so the contract tender didn’t assure Cincinnati of any draft compensation if he signed elsewhere, but it gave the club the opportunity to match any offer he signed.
Hawkins, who turned 28 this week, had his best year in 2012, racking up 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns. He began 2013 on injured reserve with an ankle injury, and only caught 12 balls in the season’s second half. Given his spot on the Bengals’ depth chart in ’13, it’s a little surprising that the club would be willing to invest in him on this sort of multiyear contract, but perhaps he’ll be in line for an increased role going forward.
As for the Browns, it appears they’ll have to shift their attention to other free agent slot receivers. The team was also in on Andre Roberts before he signed with the Redskins, and has been linked to Emmanuel Sanders.