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Browns sign WR Andrew Hawkins to offer sheet

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Browns moved a step closer to swiping a player from one of their AFC North rivals.

Cleveland signed Bengals slot receiver Andrew Hawkins to a contract offer sheet on Thursday, a Browns spokesman said. Cincinnati will have five days until next Tuesday to match the reported four-year, $13.6 million deal, which includes a $3.8 million signing bonus, or they'll lose the speedy and elusive Hawkins.

The Browns are in the market to fill the slot position after releasing troubled wide receiver Davone Bess last week. The Bengals have not said what they intend to do with Hawkins, who caught just 12 passes last season and missed four games with a high ankle sprain.

In 2012, Hawkins had 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns. The 28-year-old Hawkins was in Cleveland's rookie minicamp in 2007, but wasn't signed. He played in the Canadian Football League before signing with the Bengals.

If he joins the Browns, the 5-foot-7 Hawkins would provide a nice complement for Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon and another option for quarterback Brian Hoyer, who at this point is the favorite to begin next season as Cleveland's starter.

As they await Cincinnati's decision on Hawkins, the Browns are exploring other options and are believed to have interest in New England's Julian Edelman, a free agent who caught 105 passes last season as Tom Brady's primary target.

Edelman took over the role once held by Wes Welker and finished with 1,056 yards receiving and six touchdowns. The former Kent State quarterback also handled punt return duties for the Patriots. He has another local connection because he was a teammate on the Patriots with Hoyer, who backed up Brady for three seasons.
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AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org

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