Andrew Hawkins is walking away from football. The wide receiver announced that he will retire rather than continuing with the Patriots this offseason (Twitter link).
Hawkins signed a one-year, minimum salary benefit deal with New England this offseason, but he was facing long odds of making the final cut. Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, and Malcolm Mitchell are already locks to make the roster and the Patriots also have to have a sixth WR spot saved for special-teams ace Matt Slater. Hawkins reportedly passed up more lucrative opportunities with other clubs because New England was his top choice, but he’s opting not to circle back to those teams. Hawkins’ retirement leaves the Patriots with 88 players on their 90-man roster.
Until signing with the Pats, the 31-year-old had spent his entire career in the AFC North. After playing for the Bengals from 2011-2013, he hooked on with the Browns as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. Hawkins was initially a focal part of the offense in Cleveland, racking up 63 catches for 824 yards and two scores in his first season there. After that, however, his role shrank. In 2016, he recorded 33 catches for 324 yards and three scores.
Hawkins recently finished his MBA and he has always been comfortable being on camera. There will be plenty for Hawkins to do now that his playing career is through and he won’t necessarily be confined to football.
Although Josh McCown is the heavy favorite to open the 2017 season as the Jets‘ starting quarterback, Gang Green’s signal-caller competition hasn’t been resolved just yet, as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes. Given that head coach Todd Bowles is unquestionably on the hot seat — and needs victories to retain his job — New York could be loathe to bench McCown if the club gets off to an (admittedly unexpected) fast start. In such a scenario, second-year quarterback Christian Hackenberg might not get the type of long audition period required to show Jets management if they need to find another passer.
Here’s more from the AFC East:
Although Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin was arrested on assault charges last month (and is facing a civil suit stemming from the same incident), he’s not expected to face a suspension until at least 2018, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post. Mauldin is accused of punching a man in a New York nightclub in early April, and allegedly broke several bones in the man’s face. A third-round pick in 2015, the 24-year-old Mauldin hasn’t registered much production thus far in his NFL career, as he’s managed only 6.5 sacks as a backup in two seasons.
Given that the Patriots are only likely to retain six wide receivers on their initial roster, veteran Andrew Hawkins doesn’t seem likely to make the squad, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com details. Hawkins signed a one-year, minimum salary benefit deal with New England over the offseason, so the club will experience a minimal dead money hit if it cuts ties. Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, and special-teamer Matthew Slater are Patriots roster locks, per Reiss, so there’s no room for Hawkins barring an injury.
New Patriots linebacker David Harris will earn a base salary of $1MM in 2017, reports Miguel Benzan of PatsFans.com (hat tip: Reiss). He can also bring in $500K in per-game roster bonuses, plus another $750K via incentives. In 2018, Harris is scheduled to make a $1.75MM base salary, plus $500K in per-game roster bonuses, and $1.05MM via incentives. As previously reported, Harris also received a signing bonus of $1.25MM.
Rich Cimini of ESPN.com recently expounded on last week’s discussion of the Jets‘ QB battle, and while he does not believe the team’s insistence that it will be an open competition is a charade, he does reaffirm his (and everyone’s) belief that Josh McCown is the heavy favorite to open the season under center. But in his latest post, Cimini goes into a little more detail as to how he believes the next few months will play out. He believes that, by the end of minicamp in mid-June, McCown will be the clear-cut front-runner and Christian Hackenberg will be the No. 2. When training camp opens, head coach Todd Bowles will remove Bryce Petty from the starting competition, as it’s hard enough to have a competition among two quarterbacks, much less three. Cimini also believes Hackenberg will get plenty of action in the team’s first two preseason games, but that Bowles, with his job on the line, will ultimately give the job to McCown, though Hackenberg will get the nod at some point this year.
Now for more from the league’s east divisions:
The Jets picked up tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins after he was waived by the Buccaneers last September, and while he posted only 10 catches in seven games for New York last season, the team believes the light has finally come on for the former second-round pick. As Cimini writes, ASJ has dropped 25 pounds, he was a diligent participant in the offseason conditioning program, and his performance has caught everyone’s eye at OTAs. Now that the Jets have an offensive coordinator who utilizes the tight end as a pass catcher, ASJ is a dark horse candidate for a breakout season, especially as he enters his contract year.
Mike Reiss’ of ESPN.com reports that Andrew Hawkins‘ one-year deal with the Patriots is a minimum salary benefit pact, meaning his base salary will be $900K, his bonus won’t exceed $80K, and his salary cap charge won’t be more than $695K. Reiss says that Hawkins passed up more lucrative opportunities with other clubs because New England was his top choice.
Ben Volin of the Boston Globe applauds the Patriots‘ recent decision to add a healthy incentive package to Rob Gronkowski‘s current contract even though they had no need to do so, as he believes it’s simply smart business to keep Gronk healthy and motivated. Volin does wonder, though, whether the incentives will compel Gronkowski to push himself more than he otherwise would throughout the regular season, thereby reducing his effectiveness when the playoffs roll around.
Ryan Switzer, whom the Cowboys selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft, took first-team reps as the slot receiver during the first week of OTAs, as Cole Beasley was held out due to hamstring soreness. But as Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News writes, the Cowboys have big plans for Switzer even when Beasley returns, and they are working on packages for both to be on the field at the same time. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of Switzer, “He’s a classic slot receiver. He has a similar game [to Beasley], but he has his own things. We would really like those two guys to be able to complement each other and run real similar route trees. He complements Beasley and also gives us some big-time needed depth at that position.”
Tell us what you really think, Sheldon Richardson. On Tuesday, the Jets defensive lineman ripped former teammate Brandon Marshall. He says the Jets’ locker room atmosphere is better than it was last year. He elaborated by saying, “Let’s just say there are 15 reasons why it’s better” (Twitter link via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News). The mention of “15” was a clear reference to Marshall’s jersey number.
The locker room may be better, but it’s not clear if the team will be any better than it was last year. As it stands, the rebuilding Jets might have the least talented roster in the NFL.
Here’s more from the AFC East:
Andrew Hawkins declined four other offers so that he could play with the Patriots and catch passes from Tom Brady, a source tells Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Hawkins inked a one-year deal with New England, but his place on the 53-man roster is not a sure thing given all of the talent New England has.
Jets offensive coordinator John Morton says quarterbacks Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg will all get first team reps, as Peter Schrager of NFL.com tweets. It seems that the Jets have an open competition going for the starting job, though I personally view McCown as the odds-on favorite.
Jets safety Calvin Pryor, who has been the subject of trade talk, showed up for OTAs on Wednesday (Twitter link via Mehta).
Hawkins becomes the latest veteran addition to the Patriots this offseason, joining Brandin Cooks, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, and Dwayne Allen. Still, his spot on the 53-man roster is anything but a certainty since the Pats already have wide receivers Cooks, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, and special teams ace Matthew Slater under contract. Hawkins’ contract likely doesn’t have much in the way of guaranteed cash and perhaps has no guarantees, so there probably won’t be any real fiscal consequences for New England if they cut ties.
Until today, the 31-year-old had spent his entire career to date in the AFC North. After playing for the Bengals from 2011-2013, he hooked on with the Browns as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. Hawkins was initially a focal part of the offense in Cleveland, racking up 63 catches for 824 yards and two scores in his first season there. After that, however, his role shrank. Last year, he had just 33 catches for 324 yards and three scores.
Released by the Browns in February, Andrew Hawkins has been busy in earning a master’s degree from Columbia and interning with LeBron James’ media company, Uninterrupted. But the 31-year-old wideout remains interested in a seventh NFL season, and other teams have reciprocated that. Hawkins visited the Patriots last week and told Jarrett Bell of USA Today four teams have submitted contract proposals since his departure from Cleveland. A UDFA out of Toledo who split his six-season career between the league’s Ohio teams, Hawkins told Bell he wants to play for a contender. The wideout’s best season came in 2014, when he caught 63 passes for 824 yards on the Brian Hoyer-led Browns team. Hawkins’ name surfaced with the Saints in March, but the team get too far in that effort.
Here’s the latest from around the league.
Former Packers exec Andrew Brandt described a practice being perpetrated by teams this year as “sinister” regarding language some have attempted to insert into rookie contracts. In a piece for TheMMQB.com, Brandt wrote that some franchises are attempting attach fines to possible future voids of guaranteed money. Brandt describes a scenario where a player is late for a meeting and it results in voided guarantees of millions, which would certainly stand to drive a wedge between players and teams if this tactic ends up costing a player money. The NFLPA sent a memo to agents urging them to reject certain types of contract proposals. This practice could well be included on the union’s red-flag list.
Zach Miller said his foot is close to 100 percent but that he will “take it slow” in Bears OTAs, the tight end said (Twitter link, via Mike Berman of NBC Chicago). Miller broke his foot and landed on IR last season. The tight end’s situation in Chicago became much more complicated after the Bears made offseason moves to add Dion Sims in free agency and draft Adam Shaheen in the second round. The Bears have reportedly dangled the contract-year pass-catcher in trade talks.
The Broncos will have one of the league’s most interesting position battles take place this summer when Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch vie for the starting quarterback job. The two bring disparate profiles to the competition, with Lynch being a first-round pick and Siemian coming out of nowhere as a 2015 seventh-rounder to seize the job last year. Siemian is the favorite in Denver7 reporter Troy Renck’s eyes (Twitter link). While Lynch not commandeering the job over Siemian given the investment would be interesting, Renck notes Siemian should have more leeway to audible in Mike McCoy‘s offense. Lynch has “made strides,” however, which should create a unique duel. Going into Denver’s offseason program, NFL.com’s James Palmer reported Siemian had the early edge. Vance Joseph subsequently described this as a 50-50 situation.
The Patriots worked out wide receiver Andrew Hawkins on Wednesday, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). It’s officially a big week for Hawkins after he completed his master’s degree in sports management from Columbia’s School of Professional Studies just a couple of days ago.
Hawkins has been sitting on the open market since being released by the Browns in February. The Saints kicked the tires on him back in March, but they ultimately passed on signing him. The Patriots’ level of interest in adding Hawkins isn’t immediately clear and there’s a bit of a glut at the position. Already, the Patriots have Brandon Cooks, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Devin Street, and special teams specialist Matthew Slater under contract.
Hawkins, 31, has spent his entire career to date in the AFC North. After playing for the Bengals from 2011-2013, he hooked on with the Browns as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. Hawkins was initially a focal part of the offense in Cleveland, racking up 63 catches for 824 yards and two scores in his first season there. After that, however, his role shrank. Last year, he had just 33 catches for 324 yards and three scores.
The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.
Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.
We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:
Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.
Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018.
Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.
Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.
The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.
Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.
In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.
The market has been slow to develop for Aiken but it sounds like things could pick up soon as he’s set to meet with the Colts and Seahawks. Aiken, 28 in May, had only 29 receptions last year, but he had 75 grabs for 944 yards in 2015.
Cruz was on the field for 15 regular season games last year and he could recapture some of his old form if a team uses him in the slot. Quick quietly had 44 catches for 564 yards and three touchdowns with the Rams last year, and he was playing in a less-than-stellar offense. Boldin, meanwhile, had 67 catches in 2016, but he averaged just 8.7 yards per reception.
It’s a thin group at tight end and everything drops off dramatically after Tamme and Rivera at the top. Donnell made some noise during his time with the Giants but it’s been a while since he’s done anything of note. Tamme and Rivera could be the only two players from this group to land a deal with any real guaranteed cash.
Things have thinned out at tackle but there are still some impact guys here including Clady, Dunlap, and the versatile Pasztor. Sebastian Vollmer, if healthy, would be an interesting pickup for a team in need of offensive line depth.
Evans can still go and he finished out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 36 guard in the NFL last season. We have a few notable centers here as well in Mangold, Sullivan, and Barnes. Some teams are asking Mangold to switch to guard, but he is hoping to continue in the middle.
The Buccaneers made a “strong push” for quarterback Nick Foles before he signed with the Eagles, tweets Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, who last week reported mutual interest between Tampa Bay and Foles. Foles ended up inking a two-year, $11MM deal with Philadelphia that includes $7MM guaranteed. The Bucs could conceivably target another veteran backup quarterback, or simply roll with Ryan Griffin, whom they tendered at the original round level as a restricted free agent.
Although they missed out on the top free agent guard options, the Jaguars are still examining the offensive line market, as Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com writes. Jacksonville, of course, acquired left tackle Branden Albert from the Dolphins earlier this offseason, but still have a hole at left guard, where Patrick Omameh is currently projected to start. The Jags did sign former Cardinal Earl Watford to a two-year deal, but given that he’s best viewed as a reserve, the club may still bring in another interior lineman, either via the second wave of free agency or the draft.
The Saints aren’t all that intrigued by free agent wide receiver Andrew Hawkins after “kicking the tires” on him, tweets Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Hawkins, 31, was released by the Browns last month after three seasons with the club. Though he’s struggled over the past two years, Hawkins posted 63 receptions as recently as 2014.
February 27th, 2017 at 9:49pm CST by Dallas Robinson
Let’s take a quick spin around the AFC:
Although he’s in no hurry to find a new club, free agent receiver Andrew Hawkins has already been contacted by “quite a few teams” after being released by the Browns earlier today, according to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitterlinks). Hawkins asked to be cut loose several weeks ago, but Cleveland decided not to honor his request until today. Hawkins, who managed only 33 receptions in 2016, is now hoping to latch onto a “winning situation,” per Marvez.
Nick Mangold‘s release from the Jets came with a failed physical designation attached, tweets Howard Balzer of of BalzerFootball.com. While the specifics matter little to New York, the failed physical designation could interest the clubs that are reportedly expected to pursue Mangold this offseason. Mangold, who is likely to be an option for contending teams, missed eight games with injury in 2016.
The Patriots announced that they’ve promoted coaching assistant Nick Caley to tight ends coach. Caley will replace Brian Daboll, who left New England to accept the University of Alabama’s offensive coordinator position. Caley has worked for the Patriots for the past two seasons, and spent a decade in the NCAA prior to that.