CINCINNATI — In a surprising move, the Bengals didn't use the franchise tag before the deadline on Tuesday afternoon.
They were expected to tag defensive end Carl Lawson and "were willing" to use it on the 25-year-old just a few weeks ago. Instead, Lawson is just a few days away from becoming a free agent.
Despite not tagging the young pass rusher, the Bengals hope to keep him around long-term according to a source familiar with negotiations. The team will try to work out a deal in the coming days.
The other 31 NFL teams can start negotiating with Lawson on Monday, March 15 when the legal tampering period begins.
The Browns, Jaguars and Patriots are three of the many teams expected to be interested in Lawson league sources tell AllBengals.
He appeared in all 16 games in 2020, finishing with 36 tackles, 5.5 sacks and a career-high 32 quarterback hits. He was seventh in the NFL in sacks created (10.5) according to Next Gen Stats.
The Bengals are hoping to take multiple steps forward in 2021. Losing Lawson would be a big blow to a defense that struggled for most of last season.
Free agency officially begins on March 17 at 4 p.m.
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