Andrew Hawkins Makes His Return to Paul Brown Stadium


Oct 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (16) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

This Thursday night, Bengals wide receiver Greg Little won’t be the only player facing his former team.  Former Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins will be making his first appearance at Paul Brown Stadium since leaving the team this off-season.

Andrew Hawkins made his NFL debut back in 2011 with the Cincinnati Bengals.  He proceeded to become a quality receiver for the team with improvement across his first two years in the league.  After catching 23 passes in his first year, Hawkins produced 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns in his second year.  While becoming a stand-out receiver for the Bengals, Hawkins also became an excellent gunner on coverage teams.  In his third year, Hawkins suffered a significant ankle injury during training camp, which landed him on the I.R./DTR list.  It set the tone for a down season as Hawkins was never really able to hit his stride.

Following the season, Andrew Hawkins became a restricted free agent meaning the Bengals could place a “tender” on him giving themselves the opportunity to match any offer sheet Hawkins chose to sign over free agency.  The Bengals did indeed tag Hawkins, but chose to place an original round tender on him, and because Hawkins was never drafted, this meant the Bengals would receive no compensation for Hawkins if the Bengals chose not to match a signed offer sheet (I did a piece on this earlier this year regarding whether or not the Bengals should’ve let Andrew Hawkins go).

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Near the beginning of free agency (March 13th), Hawkins chose to sign an offer of four years/$13.6 million with the Cleveland Browns.  The deal far exceeded any tender amount the Bengals would’ve committed themselves to, which raised questions about whether the Bengals should’ve placed a higher tender on the young weapon and possibly received compensation for his loss.  Ultimately, the Bengals chose not to re-sign Hawkins as they were looking to reserve money to re-sign players like Andy Dalton, Vontaze Burfict, and A.J. Green (they’ve since re-signed both Dalton and Burfict while they exercised the fifth-year option on Green’s contract).

“I’m going to go out there before the game and thank God for the Bengals organization for giving me my chance.  And I’m going to thank God for the Browns’ organization to allow me to reach new heights.”                   – Andrew Hawkins

Thus far, Andrew Hawkins has had a successful 2014, which was expected by many fans.  Despite the absence of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron being injured for much of the year, Andrew Hawkins has produced 39 catches for 504 yards and one touchdown.  He is on pace to break his career highs in both catches and yards (he’s only 12 catches and 29 yards away), and the eventual return of Gordon and Cameron should only helped spread the field for the dynamic receiver who thrives in the open field.

Andrew Hawkins’ presence could be problematic for the Bengals on Thursday.  While his skills are well respected by Who Dey Nation, the likely absence of Leon Hall (concussion), the Bengals’ best slot corner, will only exasperate any issues the Bengals may have when covering their former teammate.

Hawkins’ return will be a cool moment for many fans who appreciate his contributions and the persistency Hawkins showed when trying to make the NFL going from college free agent, to CFL star, and finally getting his shot at the big leagues.  Many fans clamored for his return, but accepted his essential release realizing the team could only re-sign only so many players to the numerous talented players they possess.  Many fans continue to support Hawkins and enjoy seeing him do well, but on Thursday night that won’t likely be the case as the Bengals and Browns will be battling for the AFC North divisional lead.