Hawkins is a 27-year old converted cornerback and stands just 5-7 and 175. However, he ran a 4.34 at Toledo’s pro day in 2008 and is excellent in the open field. The Jets were rumored to have serious interest in Tavon Austin in last year’s draft and Hawkins is the same kind of player.
Last year he caught just 15 passes for 217 yards (including three catches in the Bengals’ postseason game), but that’s because he missed the first half of the season with an ankle injury. When he returned, he played just 124 snaps with the Bengals already deep and playing well at wideout so he was actually pretty productive when called upon. In the previous season, he had a breakout year with over 50 catches and four touchdowns.
Hawkins is also an excellent contributor on special teams, where he excels as a gunner. Adding him to the roster would prevent teams from triple-teaming Ellis Lankster, which was actually happening in a few late season games. Hawkins also has the skill-set to return kicks and although he has never done so in an NFL game, he has practiced with the return units while in Cincinnati and has kick and punt return experience both in college and in his two years in Canada.
The Cincinnati Enquirer did state recently that the team “isn’t expected to let him get away”. However, the fact they only placed an original round tender on him surprised some people. For a Bengals team that already has AJ Green, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones all on rookie deals, they will have to weigh up whether matching an offer sheet for Hawkins is wise. They do currently have almost $30m in cap room and would have five days to match if the Jets did sign Hawkins to an offer sheet.
From what we hear, this won’t be the only receiver the Jets intend to target this offseason. Manish Mehta of the Daily News seems adamant that they will target Emmanuel Sanders, although I’m not sure that a top three of Sanders, Kerley and Hawkins makes sense because they need some size.