Bengals And A.J. Hawk Say Farewell

The Cincinnati Bengals are still making roster moves. Veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk was released by the franchise Tuesday. Hawk spent one season with the Bengals after they acquired him as a free agent signing.

The announcement was made after Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reported the Bengals’ desire to say farewell to the 11-year veteran. With the release of Hawk, the Bengals will save $1.4 million against the salary cap.

The re-signing of Vincent Rey and the acquisition of Karlos Dansby may have prompted the move. Hawk’s release comes just two days before the NFL draft. The timing of his release raises questions about the linebacker being used in a trade. The Bengals may be looking for more picks.

Head coach Marvin Lewis expressed his thanks to Hawk, via ESPN.

“A.J. was a big part of us last season as we won the division championship, and I appreciate his efforts. We’re going a different direction at this point, but I’ve always been a fan of A.J. It has been a pleasure having him as part of our team and getting to know him and his family better.”

After devoting nine years to the Green Bay Packers, Hawk spent season 10 with the Bengals. In a limited role, he finished with 24 tackles and one sack. At 32-years-old, Hawk may still have some gas left in his tank. But, the Bengals wouldn’t be using him. Much of the playing time will be snatched up by Dansby. The Bengals are also counting on the development of youngsters PJ Dawson and Marquis Flowers.

There could also be the possibility of Hawk retiring. Hawk is not an old man, but the NFL is becoming a faster and more violent sport. After receiving his third and fourth concussions of his career, Buffalo Bills linebacker A.J. Tarpley decided to leave the game, at just 23-years old. According to The New York Times, he walked away from the NFL because of concerns over his long-term health.

Playing for the Bengals was a homecoming, for the former Ohio State Buckeye. Hawk is a native of Kettering, Ohio. That’s just a short drive from the Banks of the Ohio River. Last year, Hawk was cut by the Packers and quickly inked a $3.25 million deal with the Bengals. It seemed like a huge payout for two years. But, the guaranteed money was in the neighborhood of $500,000.

Hawk had never ended a season with less than 84 tackles. Bengals faithful saw him accumulate far less than that. Hawk had five seasons of 100 or more tackles with Green Bay. He ended his run with The Pack as their all-time leader in tackles.

Hawk had an extensive resume of accomplishments with Green Bay, but dropped off in his season with the Bengals. In his 10 seasons guarding the line, he was selected to the Pro Bowl once. His lack of playing time not only meant an exit from Cincinnati, but it could hurt his chances of playing elsewhere.

Bengals Hawk
[Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images]
Could Hawk’s release point to the Bengals going for a linebacker in the draft? Alabama’s Reggie Ragland, USC’s Su’a Cravens, Ohio State’s Darron Lee, and Joshua Perry are a few of the talented linebackers waiting to find homes. Lewis loves to draft that position.

“People have been asking me for the last seven years how long do you plan on playing, how long are you going to play?” Hawk said. “And I never really had an answer for them. You never really know. Not many people just openly just freely step away from the game. But I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Whatever happens next, Hawk can look back on a solid career.

[Photo by Jeff Haynes/AP]