Breaking down A.J. Hawk's new Bengals contract

CINCINNATI -- Across the region Thursday morning, the sports headlines will likely be about the football hero who came home to play for the pro team he cheered as a kid.

It makes sense, given the rock star treatment A.J. Hawk received Wednesday afternoon when he met media for the first time since agreeing the day before to play for the Cincinnati Bengals.

As much as he may be viewed as a local football superstar, his new contract won't be paying him like it. Signed to a two-year, $3.25 million deal, he's being paid more like a backup or rotational player, not the linebacker with the most career tackles in Green Bay Packers history. At $1.9 million, kicker Mike Nugent, a childhood friend of Hawk's who just re-signed with the Bengals earlier this week, will make $500,000 more in 2015 than Hawk will.

A native of Kettering, Ohio, Hawk's introduction included television crews from both Cincinnati and Dayton. He and his father hit the afternoon sports radio circuit, talking with various shows and hosts. In between, he carved out time for a few of the digital and print reporters present.

Most backups with contracts like his probably wouldn't get such fanfare.

It seems clear this was a contract drawn up for a 31-year-old linebacker who has started moving into the twilight of his career. His age is arguably the biggest knock he has. Those who covered Hawk closely during his nine years in Green Bay noticed decreases in his speed and lateral movement late in his tenure there. An ankle injury that required offseason surgery probably limited him more than he let on this past season.

Regardless of what the perceptions about his age are, Hawk doesn't see it as a limitation.

"I've played with some old guys who they can't seem to find a way to get through," Hawk said. "During camp, they'll practice one day and then take a day off and do all these things to take care of themselves and their knees are banged up and they struggle to get to Sunday. That's never been my plan and never will be. I can't think of a practice I've ever missed. I don't ever want to be that guy. When that comes, it's going to be time for me to get out of the league, because I need to be out there every single day working.

"In my eyes, it's just a number."

Here's a look at how Hawk's new contract breaks down:


Cap value: $1,850,000

Base salary: $1,100,000

Guaranteed money: $500,000 (to be paid in the form of a roster bonus this week)

Roster bonus: $700,000 (the total roster bonus, including guaranteed money; remaining $200,000 paid per game active in 2015 -- $12,500 per game)

Workout bonus: $50,000


Cap value: $1,400,000

Base salary: $1,100,000

Guaranteed money: $0

Roster bonus: $200,000 (paid per game active in 2016 -- $12,500 per game)

Workout bonus: $100,000