Cleveland has extended the third-year receiver a four-year, $13.6 million deal, of which $10.8 million would be paid in the first two years. Hawkins signed the offer sheet earlier this week. The Bengals received it Thursday, meaning they have five days to match the deal if they want to hold on to him. They have not yet announced their plans.
By not matching the offer sheet, the Bengals won't lose anything other than the player himself. They will keep the $1.4 million they set aside for him as a tender last week.
Hawkins was one of three Cincinnati restricted free agents who received low-round tenders. Because all three were undrafted players, the Bengals won't be owed any draft-pick compensation if the team doesn't match Cleveland's offer.
A former standout at Toledo, the 28-year-old Hawkins would be returning to northern Ohio after spending the first three years of his NFL career in Cincinnati. Prior to coming to the Bengals, he played in the CFL under current Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman.
Hawkins missed half of the 2013 regular season with an ankle injury suffered while diving for a ball during a preseason practice. Through eight games, he had just 12 receptions for 199 yards and no touchdowns. Of his yards receiving, 127 came after the catch.
The speedy slot receiver had a better year in 2012, finishing with 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns. Only Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham had more receiving yards on the team that season.