Andrew Hawkins joins Browns

Updated: March 18, 2014, 8:23 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Restricted free agent Andrew Hawkins joined the Cleveland Browns after the Cincinnati Bengals decided not to match the wide receiver's offer sheet from their in-state rival.

Hawkins signed Cleveland's four-year, $13,6 million offer sheet, which would have paid him $10.8 million in the first two years, last week, according to a source.

The Bengals received the offer sheet last Thursday, meaning they had five days to match the deal if they wanted to retain Hawkins.

"I don't want to let Andrew go without making note that he has been a very hard working and contributing player," coach Marvin Lewis said. "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.

"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."

Hawkins talked about the move in a series of tweets Tuesday where he thanked the Bengals organization for his time with the team and looked forward to the future in Cleveland.

Hawkins was one of three Cincinnati restricted free agents who received low-round tenders. Because he was an undrafted player, the Bengals won't be owed any draft-pick compensation from the Browns.

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.

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.

ESPN.com Bengals reporter Coley Harvey and ESPN.com Browns reporter Pat McManamon contributed to this report.

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