The Cincinnati Bengals informed restricted free agent linebacker Emmanuel Lamur that they're applying a second-round tender this season. The move significantly increases Lamur's compensation number to $2.356 million and rewards the Bengals with a second-round draft pick if another team signs Lamur to an offer sheet and the Bengals refuse to match.
Soon after these reports surfaced, there was an obvious (if not predictable) narrative about how the Bengals "learned their lesson" after losing Andrew Hawkins last year.
Paul Dehner Jr, the beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer, writes:
Last year, the Bengals attempted to save what was then a difference of $756K in offering Andrew Hawkins the lowest tender instead of a second-round deal. The Browns swooped in and cleverly structured the contract to be one Cincinnati wouldn't match and poached the receiver for nothing, well, outside of $13 million. He ended up leading Cleveland in receiving, while the Bengals were decimated by injuries and in need of a playmaker at wideout down the stretch.
Coley Harvey with ESPN agrees:
It's a clear sign the front office learned from its mistake last March of offering a low-round tender to receiver Andrew Hawkins, who subsequently was poached away when the Cleveland Browns out-bid the Bengals for him.
Even our blogging brethren at Stripe Hype marched to the beat of this drum, using the word "maturation" in the title.
Ultimately the team lost Andrew Hawkins to a significant, yet likely fair offer, from the Cleveland Browns. Based on Hawkins contract, which has an average salary of $3.4 million, it’s entirely possible the team would've been willing to surrender a second-round selection for Hawkins. And if they weren't, the Bengals would’ve enjoyed his services this past season, something they clearly missed. The Bengals immediately recognized their decision on Hawkins as a mistake and acted quickly in re-signing Vincent Rey before he was lost also.
Maybe everyone is right. The Bengals "lost" Hawkins due to a poor tender... Cincinnati offered an original-round tender on Hawkins with a compensation value of $1.431 million, opening the door for another team to sign Hawkins to an offer sheet. That much is true... if that's ALL we're reacting to.
Cleveland originally offered Hawkins to a four-year deal worth $12.2 million with $5.3 million in guaranteed money -- ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported at the time that the Bengals were actually going to match. The Browns went back to the ledgers and eventually signed Hawkins to a four-year deal worth $13.6 million with $10.8 million committed to the first four seasons and a $3.8 million roster bonus in the first year. NOTE: It probably wasn't a good idea for the Bengals to leak information that they'd match an offer that wasn't initially signed... unless they manipulated public opinion and forced the Browns to spend more, since Hawkins never appeared in their long-term plans.
The Bengals said, "meh". And why wouldn't they? Hawkins was competing for playing time against Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu at wide receiver, and would have fought for receptions against Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham. Hawkins was viewed as a luxury. Arguments that the Bengals could have used Hawkins this year are also misleading -- how is "learning this lesson" applicable when the whole point about Hawkins only surfaced once Bengals players were hurt. Cincinnati couldn't have predicted that Jones would be out for the entire year and that A.J. Green would spend more time in the infirmary than on the practice field? Special teams didn't suffer from Hawkins' absence (Dre Kirkpatrick became a helluva gunner) and Adam Jones is the best returner on the team, which would remain true even if Hawkins returned.
After Hawkins joined the Browns, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis offered this:
"I don't want to let Andrew go without making note that he has been a very hard working and contributing player. 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."
Yep. He's broken up about it.
Hawkins was a big-play artist on offense but those moments were far too infrequent. Of his 35 games played in Cincinnati, Hawkins generated 50 yards or more receiving only six times -- the same number of games in which he had five receptions or more. Hawkins averaged 2.91 receptions per game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, with no scores and 33.6 yards per game. And when Cincinnati reached the postseason, Hawkins averaged two receptions for 14.3 yards. We have to acknowledge that play designs from former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, and/or lack of attention from starting quarterback Andy Dalton to read his progressions, could have forced a talent-rich receiver into a mediocre light.
Despite leading the Browns in most receiving categories, Hawkins wouldn't have touched those numbers in Cincinnati.
What does this have to do with Lamur?
Simply put... when the Bengals tendered Hawkins in 2014, he was competing for playing time in the middle of Cincinnati's depth chart. Had Hawkins been given a second-round tender, locking him in a Bengals uniform, there was no guarantee that he'd play that many snaps -- and even if he did, how many receptions would he have had? Obviously the note about injuries impacts that talking point but that's not something the Bengals could project in March.
On the other hand, Emmanuel Lamur was a primary starter for Cincinnati's defense and he's projected to maintain that role in 2015.
Starter vs mid-pack depth chart guy? C'mon.