Could Cincinnati Bengals Sign A.J. Hawk?


In a somewhat surprising move, at least for those who don’t follow the team closely, the Green Bay Packers released linebacker A.J. Hawk on Wednesday, making him an unrestricted free agent.  While Hawk and the Pack make nice-nice in their farewell wishes to each other, there are reasons to think that the Cincinnati Bengals could come calling when free agency opens next month.

Most obviously, the Bengals have a need at linebacker, where both OLB Emmanuel Lamur and ILB Rey Maualuga will also be free agents, and Maualuga has said he plans to test the waters. Even if he stays, Maualuga has not been a superstar, and, while Vontaze Burfict has been outstanding, he has also been an injury risk and, at least occasionally, a questionable presence on the field.

Hawk could provide the vaunted “veteran leadership,” of course, but, more importantly, he would provide depth for a unit that has some question marks.

Beyond on-field needs, Hawk’s coming to Cincinnati would be a PR win for the Bengals, since he grew up in nearby Centerville and was a standout for some dominant Ohio State Buckeyes teams in the 2000s.  While hardly any NFL teams have attendance problems to speak of, Hawk would be another reason for locals to come out to Paul Brown Stadium eight times a year, and he would likely help local television ratings, too.

Despite the bad taste of another one-and-done playoff appearance, the Bengals should be a good team again in 2015, and they are mostly just tweaking the roster here and there rather than looking for a major overhaul.  Given that he is 31 years old and would be coming home, A.J. Hawk may prove to be a value that the Bengals could afford as they try to nudge themselves past their post-season woes without breaking what they already have in place.

So, could there be a stadium full of orange and black Number 50 jerseys on the Riverfront this fall?  Don’t bet against it.

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