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Carl Lawson on His Future, Free Agency, the Franchise Tag and Joe Burrow

"I’m Listening to What Everybody Has to Say"

Carl Lawson is set to hit the open market after the Bengals opted not to place the franchise tag on their best edge rusher

As soon as the tag deadline passed on Tuesday, Lawson made sure the world knew that his “guns were for hire." 

Lawson explained why he wasn't expecting to be tagged in a conversation with AllBengals on Thursday. 

“I didn’t understand the whole reason behind people thinking I was getting tagged. If you have good communication talks with me, and there’s a chance that I might re-sign, why would you take a hit that big against the cap?” Lawson asked with a clear understanding of the big picture. "Just where we are right now as a team, there's a lot of problems. Number nine, Joe Burrow—the quarterback is the most important thing possible and you need pieces to help the most important part of the team flourish."

Tagging Lawson would've cost the Bengals $16.069 million in cap space. It's something they could afford to do, but it would've made it much more challenging to bring in the free agent haul that they plan on adding to their roster in the coming weeks.

"Right now we’re doing a deep dive onto what it might take to get guys signed, both our own guys and out there guys and how best to attack it to get the biggest bang for our buck," Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin said on Monday. "Over the past ten years of the Cincinnati Bengals, we’ve been a top half of the league spending spending team. We are going to spend on players, but we’ve also maintained a cap that’s allowed us to be flexible. This year, we have flexibility, which is a good position to be in. We’re trying to best manage that number and come out of this free agency and the draft with the most help we can possibly get for our team."

The Bengals have until Monday afternoon to work out an extension before the legal tampering period begins and other teams come calling. 

“I’m listening to what everybody has to say there’s no doubt about that,” Lawson said.

The 25-year-old hasn't closed the door on Cincinnati.

“There are a lot of good things [in the city] even outside of the organization that people don’t know. It’s the team that I have, massage therapists, chiropractors, MAG Specialists, all of those people are good people,” Lawson said. “People think the things that tie people to a city is just strictly money, you can find things to replace it, but you also take that into consideration. I’m not against doing that or coming back here. It’s got to be the right situation for me and my family.”

Lawson thinks the Bengals' future could be bright with or without him because of star quarterback Joe Burrow.

“It all leads through him to be honest. It’s a team sport, but the most important position is that [QB] and they’ve got a great one.”

Lawson was by far the best edge rusher on the Bengals' roster last season. What are his goals in free agency and what is he hoping to accomplish after signing a new contract? 

“Winning and being an all-pro player, those are the things that will literally make me happy," Lawson said. "Of course enough financial security for what I want to do for my family. Those three things, that’s the ideal, that's what I work a lot for."

The Bengals took Lawson in the fourth-round (116th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft. He was part of a rotation in each of his first three seasons in the league, before taking over as a starter in 2020. He's going to be a hot commodity on the free agent market. 

“I said let me put enough stuff on film in 2020 to get myself that catapult to be a starter for whether it be the Bengals or another team in 2021,” Lawson explained. “I played full time in the SEC [at Auburn] which is damn near like the NFL, so it was never a question of whether I could do it, it was just about getting that opportunity.”

Lawson missed 13 games in 2018-19 due to various injuries, but he bounced back and played in every game in 2020, making 11 starts. 

He finished with 36 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 32 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles last season. 

Lawson is open to coming back to Cincinnati, but he knows his value. He's hoping to sign a contract that reflects the work he's put into the game of football and the talent he brings to the field.

Listen to our entire interview with Lawson at the top of this page.


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