The Bengals tendered Hawkins as a restricted free agent at the original round level, which meant that they were not eligible to get draft pick compensation if he signed elsewhere but could match the offer. The Browns took the bait and extended a four-year offer to Hawkins on Tuesday.
It doesn’t look like he’ll be winding up in Cleveland, though. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Bengals will match the offer, which is for $12.2 million with $5.3 million in guaranteed money. That’s much more than the $1.431, one-year tender that the Bengals extended to Hawkins, which makes it a little surprising that the Bengals made a call to match so quickly.
The Cleveland Browns had a nice start to free agency on Tuesday, agreeing to deals with inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Donte Whitner. Both move makes sense and give us confidence that the new regime of general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine may actually know what they are doing.
I’m sure some Ravens fans hoped that the organization broke from its tradition of being patient at this time of year and went out and used much of the approximately $19 million of salary cap space that they had on the first day of free agency.
Start out by signing one or two offensive linemen. Add a prized receiver. Go out and get a middle linebacker and then a play-making safety to anchor the defense. And then be done with it all until the May draft. Of course, that was never going to happen, even with the advantage of more cap flexibility than the organization has had in a good while.
The Steelers did not retain Cotchery before the start of free agency, and it stands to reason he’s going to explore his options before signing back with his previous team.
It will be interesting to see what kind of market Cotchery sets. With 10 touchdowns last season and being a key member of an emerging offense could create a situation where Cotchery is more valuable in Pittsburgh than anywhere else – free agents usually get more money on the open market than they do from their original team.