Time for the Bengals to retain Carl Lawson is running out.
On Tuesday, the club opted not to place the franchise tag on the former fourth-round pick. Now, as unrestricted free agency closes in on the NFL, the Bengals have until Monday afternoon before the legal tampering window opens and 31 other clubs can make official offers for Lawson’s services.
Saying this, illegal tampering is already underway (don’t tell the league office that), but the ball is still in the Bengals’ court.
That’s at least what Lawson said in an exclusive interview with Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic.
“Of course the Bengals are the front-runner; we just haven’t gotten to any of the negotiations and stuff yet,” Lawson said. “I just know, talking with the Bengals, I think they would do right by me. And we’ll get that situation talked about first, but there is a lot of interest out there; that’s what I’m hearing.”
You better believe Lawson is hearing about interest. The more time that passes, the more information Lawson gets from agent, who is certainly gauging what market will be out there for Lawson.
Being just 25 years old and coming off the best season of his young career, Lawson should want to explore all options available to him. If another team wants to pay him more, then no one should blame him for taking that opportunity. But the door for Lawson returning to Cincinnati has not been shut at all.
“Of course, I’m comfortable where I’m at. But it doesn’t make sense to not listen to what people have to say, but if there are better options for me and my family, then people will understand that. It’s not like they [Cincinnati] don’t have a great shot at landing me. Why would you tag me if you know you have a good shot at talking with me?”
Lawson said he never heard anything about the Bengals potentially using the tag on him, despite reports that said so. Using the tag would’ve cost the Bengals a lot more 2021 cap space than a long-term deal would, and Lawson understands why that wasn’t in the best interest of either party.
It’s evident that Lawson has been Cincinnati’s main priority amongst their own free agents. If he decides to take an offer from another team, it won’t be due to a lack of trying from the team that drafted him.