If the Bengals are unable to re-sign him, they’ll need to find a replacement, and such will likely be found from within. Mohamed Sanu would be the likeliest candidate, as he spent 112 snaps in the slot (53.8%) last year. Marvin Jones notched 68 in the slot (18.7 percent), but playing more snaps (363 to Sanu’s 208) shows that the Bengals clearly believed Sanu was more fit for the slot.
It makes perfect sense, as Sanu isn’t an explosive athlete, and isn’t going to run many routes further than 7-10 yards downfield, which is typical of a slot receiver. Jones is better suited for an intermediate-to-deep threat role, which he’ll be lining up on the outside.
Best-case scenario is still the Bengals being able to maintain their continuity and re-sign Hawkins next offseason.