Hawkins could add speed to slot

The Cleveland Browns added much-needed speed to the offense on the first day of free agency.


Receiver Andrew Hawkins agreed to a four-year offer sheet, but because he's a restricted free agent the Bengals can match. They have five days to decide whether to keep him in Cincinnati. However, if the Browns made it difficult, Cincinnati may not match because they have several talented receivers.

Aditi Kinkwabwala of NFL.com tweeted that the offer includes guaranteed money that is three times the Bengals' tender offer of $1.45 million. No compensation is involved.

Hawkins is a quick, shifty receiver who would probably figure to line up in the slot -- taking the spot manned by Davone Bess in 2013. Hawkins was limited to 12 catches due to a high ankle sprain in 2013 but had 55 catches, including a glittering catch-and-run for a 50-yard touchdown against the Browns in 2012.

He’s small -- 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds -- but was timed in the 4.35-to-4.40 range in the 40 at Toledo. Call him a more experienced Travis Benjamin, with far better receiver's skills, including (as the Browns know) playmaking ability after the catch.

The Browns were busy on the first day of free agency, agreeing on the offer sheet to Hawkins and agreeing to terms with linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Dante Whitner.

That is significant, but in each case the Browns filled needs created by departed players. Hawkins takes over for Bess, Dansby for the released D'Qwell Jackson and Whitner steps in for free agent T.J. Ward, who signed with Denver.

Whether the Browns are better for the signings depends on whether the new guys play better than the ones who started a year ago.