CINCINNATI - The Bengals let slot receiver Andrew Hawkins go to the Cleveland Browns Tuesday by declining to match the Browns' pricey offer.
Hawkins, a restricted free agent, will get $10.8 million over first two years and $13.6 million over four. The frontloaded money would have been a salary-cap problem for the Bengals.
“It’s a given that we will invest in players to the limit of the salary cap, but the system means teams have to make choices, and we don’t believe this match, at this time, would serve our goal of allocating resources roster-wide for the best possible team come September,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.
“I don't want to let Andrew go without making note that he has been a very hard working and contributing player. He has set a great example of being a great teammate. But we're fortunate to have a lot of depth at wide receiver, and we're excited to move forward.
"Our leading receivers from last year will all return, and we have another group who know our system and have earned our confidence that they are ready to see more action."
An ankle injury kept Hawkins out of the first half of the 2013 season. He had only 12 receptions for 199 yards and no touchdowns.
The Bengals did re-sign backup safety Taylor Mays on Monday. Mays, an unrestricted free agent, played eight games last year before suffering a season-ending shoulder dislocation on Oct. 20 at Detroit.