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Dust clears

Posted Mar 12, 2014

The second day of free agency unfolded a lot less decisively than the first for the Bengals on Wednesday.


The second day of free agency unfolded a lot less decisively than the first for the Bengals on Wednesday.

That offer sheet they were reportedly supposed to match on restricted free agent Andrew Hawkins? By the end of business the club had yet to receive the contract from the Cleveland Browns, so it was safe to assume no call had been made there yet.

And media reports had left tackle Anthony Collins all but signed sealed and delivered to Tampa Bay but there was no official word on a blizzard of a day at One Bucs Place that featured the release of cornerback Darrelle Revis and the crowing of Josh McCown as the starting quarterback.

The deal, which has been bandied about at between $6.5-$7 million per year, is expected by the Tampa media. Collins was in the building during the news conference introducing former Bengal Michael Johnson, but all head coach Lovie Smith would say is that they have more work to do.

The Bengals had hoped to re-sign Collins and it’s believed they made an offer. But the fact they don’t appear to be in the negotiating fray points to the comfort level they have with the health of left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth was never 100 percent last year after offseason knee surgery and while they’ve made no decisions on how they’ll line up in the springs camps they seem confident Whitworth can go at a spot where the Bengals are 41-33 in his starts at left tackle in the last five seasons.

With Whitworth counting $6.2 million against this year’s salary cap and right tackle Andre Smith, averaging $6 million after 50 NFL starts, according to spotrac.com; it is tough for the Bengals to venture into the market that has reportedly developed for Collins and his 25 NFL starts.

One known on the offensive line is that Mike Pollak is going to get his first shot at playing NFL center in his seventh pro season after playing 67 games at guard.

“They made me a  center when I went to Arizona State and by the time I left I felt like I was born to play the position,’ said Pollak, who last week earned a three-year deal after starting five games at right guard last season in his first year with the Bengals. “I know there is the draft and free agency to go through, but I’m excited at getting the opportunity to play center.”

Not only is there a looming training camp battle with third-year man Trevor Robinson, a veteran of seven starts as a rookie, and last year’s seventh-rounder T.J. Johnson, but there is also a deep crop of centers in the draft. It's also believed the Bengals are going to bring in some veteran offensive linemen let go by other teams to examine. But they’ll all be going against a 2008 second-round draft pick that feeds off being in the middle of it all.

“I like being the guy you can count on. That leadership role fits my personality more,” Pollak said.

Offensive line coach Paul Alexander noted Pollak’s work as a center in the 2008 draft and liked it. He still likes it and his approach.

“Pollak is one of those guys who doesn’t say very much,” Alexander said. “But when he does, he’s on point.”

Despite a blanket of reports Wednesday morning that said the Bengals are going to match Cleveland’s four-year, $12 million offer sheet to Hawkins that could be worth as much as $5 million this year, they had yet to receive the contract Wednesday during business hours. The five-day clock for the Bengals to match doesn’t start ticking until they receive it.

There appeared to be no feel either way, especially since the entirety of the deal was unknown. It looks like a call that’s not cut-and-dried.

Hawkins finished the season as the fourth wide receiver on a team that also has running back Giovani Bernard and tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert catching the ball. The 5-7, 180-pound Hawkins doesn’t return kicks, but he possesses enough game-changing speed from scrimmage that he’s a matchup nightmare in space worthy of his own package while also being an excellent cover man on kicks.

Certainly valuable. How valuable when compared to the role and money? Another factor? The money makes Hawkins the Browns’ unquestioned slot guy, which makes them better, and the Bengals aren’t looking to make an AFC North rival better.

 

 

 

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