Cincinnati Bengals release veteran linebacker James Harrison

Club loses Anthony Collins, likely Andrew Hawkins

CINCINNATI -  More comings and goings – no, just goings – with the Bengals Thursday:

> Released: Linebacker James Harrison

> Free agent lost: Tackle Anthony Collins.

> Restricted free agent about to be lost: Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins.

Harrison thanked Bengals fans on Twitter:

It's not known if Harrison, 36, plans to retire.

The 10-year Steelers great played a limited role with the Bengals for one season. He saw action in 15 games, with 10 starts, and had 40 tackles, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

But he made a bigger impact off the field.

"Hard Knocks" watchers will remember him for dissing the HBO camera crew.

Coach Marvin Lewis, in a statement Thursday, said he was grateful for Harrison's leadership and example.

“It was great for our coaches, players and fans to have James on our team last year,” said Lewis. “He’s a player everyone looks up to because of his ability, his accomplishments and his drive to be the best. He helped us win a division title with his play and with the example he set.

“It’s time for us to go a different direction now, with some younger guys, but we will all still reap benefits from having had James with us as a Bengal last year.”

Collins is following his former Bengals teammate, defensive end Michael Johnson, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Collins agreed to a five-year deal worth $30 million, including $15 million guaranteed, ESPN reported Thursday.

Johnson cashed in with the Bucs on Monday: $43.75 million for five years, according to ESPN. That included $24 million guaranteed.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns might have beaten the Bengals in the Hawkins bidding war.

After the Bengals indicated they would match the Browns' reported offer for the slot receiver, Cleveland came up with a better deal: $10.8 million over first two years and $13.6 million over four, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported.

By frontloading the deal, the Browns made it harder for the Bengals to match under their salary cap.

Now that Hawkins has signed the offer sheet, the Bengals have until Tuesday to match and keep him.

If it sounds like the Bucs are throwing money around, they are.

It looks like Tampa Bay has been trying to corner free agent market, also agreeing to deals with cornerback Alterraun Verner, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald,  quarterback Josh McCown and tight  end Brandon Myers.

When the Bengals lost starting guard Kevin Zeitler to injury, left tackle Andrew Whitworth slid  inside to play guard and  Collins took over at tackle, protecting quarterback's Andy Dalton's back. Collins started six games and didn't allow a sack.

The addition of Collins fits with new coach Lovie Smith's approach of building a team from the lines back.


 

 

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