CLEVELAND (AP) - Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins joined the Browns on Tuesday after the Cincinnati Bengals declined to match an offer sheet for him.
The Bengals announced their decision eight hours before a five-day deadline to equal Cleveland's offer to Hawkins was to expire. The Browns signed Hawkins, a restricted free agent, to a four-year, $13.6 million offer sheet last Thursday. The team has not yet announced the signing.
Hawkins, 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds, fills a major need at slot receiver. The Browns recently released troubled wide receiver Davone Bess and were in the market for an inside playmaker. Hawkins fits that bill and should help Cleveland's offense with his elusiveness and big-play potential.
Hawkins had just 12 catches for 199 yards last season, when he was sidelined by a high-ankle sprain. In 2012, he had 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns.
''I don't want to let Andrew go without making note that he has been a very hard working and contributing player,'' Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement released by the team. ''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.''
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