At first glance, the move was chalked up by most as due diligence, with consideration given to the team's expanded 90-man offseason roster. But that perception changed once the figures of the deal were released.
New England inked the University of California product -- who was cut by Tennessee eight days earlier -- to a two-year contract worth $1.79 million with a max incentive value of $3.065 million, as Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com first reported.
The guaranteed signing bonus is where things get interesting, however, since Hawkins was assured $150,000.
That amount of definitive money isn't just forked over to a proverbial "camp body." In fact, per Spotrac.com, it's more than what was forked over to 25-year-old ex-Buffalo Bill Donald Jones, 30-year-old ex-Minnesota Viking and Atlanta Falcon Michael Jenkins, and even 27-year-old incumbent slot target Julian Edelman.
Those three Patriots route-runners signed contracts without any guarantees and no strings attached. Which leads us to the burning question: What did head coach Bill Belichick and Co. see in the 5'11", 194-pounder with one career NFL touchdown?
Hawkins, a 2008 fourth-round draft pick, has played in 52 regular season games over the last five years. He has four starts and a cumulative total of 71 receptions for 771 yards on his NFL resume.
Yet aside from a 47-catch, 470-yard campaign in 2011, Hawkins has never reeled in more than seven passes in a season. Although aside from 2011, when he logged work in all 16 contests, Hawkins has never been active for an entire season.
Last year, Hawkins was seemingly phased out of the Titans' game plan, stuck behind the likes of Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, Damian Williams and Michael Preston. He appeared in just seven games, and according to Football Outsiders, he amassed a mere 51 offensive snaps as well as nine special teams snaps. Hawkins saw his most extensive looks as a kick returner, running back seven boots for 205 yards, including a 71-yard long.
Essentially utilized as the sixth wideout on the depth chart during his final year in Nashville, it remains to be seen how the Patriots plan to utilize Hawkins in Foxboro. He's not built to be a physical outside receiver, and he's in a logjam behind prized acquisition Danny Amendola for a role in the slot.
But, as Hawkins explained to CSNNE.com's Tom E. Curran, he'll line up anywhere:
"It's not about me. It's about this team and that's what I've learned since I've been here. It ain't about the person. It's about the team and getting the W's in the win column. It ain't about me. Whenever I can make a play, I'll make a play but if I gotta block the whole game I'll be happy to do that."
The man now sporting Wes Welker's old No. 83 is saying all the right things. And it doesn't hurt that he has made an impression on the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium this offseason, either.
Curran and others in attendance for Patriots minicamp made note of Hawkins' uptick in reps. While his extended opportunities were a byproduct of other receivers being unable to practice, his extended opportunities were opportunities nonetheless. Hawkins has capitalized with the chances he's been given by the Patriots coaching staff, garnering praise for making a collection of difficult grabs look easy.
Now there's only so much that can be taken away from June workouts in shorts, but all signs indicate that Hawkins is planning to be in New England beyond Aug. 31 when the 53-man roster is finalized. The only problem is that there are 10 other wide receivers on New England's roster with the same intentions.
Regardless of what the future holds for Hawkins, there's a reason he's in the fold.
And it's probably not because of the two catches for eight yards he has produced versus the Patriots. More likely, it's because he could potentially produce with the Patriots.
You can follow Oliver on Twitter@OliverBThomas.
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