Is A.J. Hawk A Good Fit for the Bengals?


A.J. Hawk would be an interesting hometown signing of sorts for the Cincinnati Bengals. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

As of yesterday, the Green Bay Packers decided to cut ties with longtime inside linebacker A.J. Hawk.

His release follows the Packers plan of revamping the position.  Upgrading at the position will allow the team to rely less on the versatility of Clay Matthews, allowing him to stay at his outside linebacker position.  It also allowed the team to free up additional cap space, which will likely be put to good use when re-signing some of their free agents, i.e. Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga.  A.J. Hawk’s release offers yet another quality veteran to the free agent pool, and more importantly to the Bengals, a potential option at middle linebacker.

A.J. Hawk has quietly been a solid player for the Packers for the past nine seasons.  His quiet demeanor allowed him to become the Packers all-time leading tackler with barely anyone even noticing outside of the Packers community.  His ability to maintain his body has allowed him to stay healthy having only missed two games his entire career (in 2011).  This kind of consistency, durability, and production would be beneficial to the Bengals who are in dire need of help in the middle of the defense.

Undoubtedly, A.J. Hawk has gained much knowledge across his NFL career.  As a former first-round selection, Hawk entered the NFL as a talented linebacker, but quality linebacker play is often predicated upon knowledge and instincts, something that is often fostered by study.  This kind of knowledge would be great for the Bengals who’ve acquired a youthful group of linebackers who are in dire need of development.

Any potential landing of A.J. Hawk in Cincinnati must be a calculated investment.  Although Hawk has been largely indestructible to this point in his career, the longtime linebacker had ankle surgery to remove bone spurs.  Diminshing cartilage often causes these spurs.  This means it’s entirely possible that Hawk’s ankle bones could be rubbing and causing the spurs, hence discomfort.  One surgery isn’t typically the biggest deal, but it’s hardly unheard of that a first surgery marks the beginning of the end for a once durable veteran.  These spurs could be an indication that Hawk may need to be employed on less snaps making him more of a rotational, situational player.

If A.J. Hawk were agreeable to a deal commensurate with a rotational player’s value, he could still be a solid veteran addition to the Bengals’ linebacking corps.  The team would still need to invest in a player via the draft, but Hawk could act as a mentor for this player especially, while allowing the young player to ease into the lineup.  More importantly, Hawk could bring some insurance and stability to the unit while Vontaze Burfict’s prognosis is still largely unknown–we all saw how the defense suffered last year without a “quarterbacking” presence.  The Bengals would do well to inquire about Hawk and see if a return to his home state would be of interest to him.

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