Veteran wide receiver Andrew Hawkins adds speed to Browns' offense
The Cleveland Browns acquired Andrew Hawkins Tuesday after the Cincinnati Bengals decided not to match the contractual offer the Browns presented the speedy restricted free-agent veteran wide receiver five days ago.
The Bengals had five days to match the Browns' offer to retain him. The Browns do not owe the Bengals any draft-pick compensation.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to come in and be the spark they're looking for," Hawkins said during a conference call with media covering the Browns. "The things that I'm good at are run after the catch and hopefully be a leader where I can step in at, just bring everything I've done to this point in my career to the Cleveland locker room.
"I believe in everything (Browns general manager) Ray Farmer has been able to do and everything he's bringing about, and I think I'll be a good addition to that."
Hawkins, 28, becomes the sixth player to join the Browns since the NFL's free-agency signing period began on March 11. The others are linebacker Karlos Dansby, strong safety Donte Whitner, cornerback Isaiah Trufant, tight end Jim Dray, and running back Ben Tate.
"It shows what the organization is trying to do," Hawkins said of the signings. "They're trying to win, they're trying to win now, they're trying to (assemble) an incredible roster and I think they've done great in free agency. Not even including myself, (but) the players they've been able to bring in just shows where their mind's at and I feel good about where the program is going."
Hawkins caught 12 passes for 199 yards in eight games he played last season after missing the first half of the year with a high-ankle sprain he suffered before the start of the preseason. He averaged a team-leading 16.6 yards per catch.
"To get hurt the way I did last year – it was such a freak accident, someone stepping on my heel – was disappointing," he said. "I was able to work back to a hundred percent a lot faster than was anticipated, and I'm looking forward to coming out this year and playing 16 full games and just putting my best foot forward and really proving my worth."
His best NFL season came in 2012, when he had 51 receptions for 533 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games. In 35 NFL games, all with the Bengals, Hawkins has 86 receptions for 995 yards and four touchdowns. He also has rushed 13 times for 58 yards.
The 5-foot-7, 180-pound Hawkins was the first two-way football player for the University of Toledo, seeing action at receiver and cornerback. He finished his collegiate career with 67 receptions for 634 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for one score.
Hawkins sees his career as having come "full circle," because after going undrafted, he received an audition from the Browns during their rookie minicamp, but wasn't offered a contract. He was out of football for the '08 season and worked odd jobs, hoping he would get another chance to pursue his dream of playing professional football.
"I was very appreciative of my tryout because I didn't have any other team willing to bring me in for a tryout," Hawkins said. "I can actually remember my agent talking to the Bengals and the Browns. The Bengals, actually at the time, didn't think I was fast enough. Just being able to go in and get the opportunity (the Browns) gave to me was a blessing to me. It was a great experience. I did think I did well at the tryout.
"And in some way, shape or form, indirectly, it helped land me here in Cleveland now."
The Johnstown, Pa., native spent the next two years with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, helping them win back-to-back Grey Cup championships in 2009 and 2010.
In 2011, he was in the St. Louis Rams' training camp before being waived and signed by the Bengals.
"Free agency is well under way," Browns general manager Ray Farmer said in a statement released by the team. "We've added several players to the roster that will continue to push in the direction we want this team to go. A couple key things to keep in mind: What we're doing is finding talented players that can be good starters in this league, and guys that can compete to push those guys that end up being the starters.
"Since we last talked about the state of our roster, we've added Jim Dray, Ben Tate and now Andrew Hawkins – all offensive guys who we think can help advance our mission. These acquisitions are about steadying our ship and moving Cleveland closer to competing in our division and competing for championships.
"Like Coach (Mike Pettine) has articulated, we want guys that play like Browns, and we feel like every player we've added in free agency embodies the characteristics we want: Passion, toughness, relentlessness, competitiveness, accountability and productivity."
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