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Andrew Hawkins signs with Patriots after graduating from Columbia

Leaving Cleveland should be a boon for the veteran wide receiver.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran wide receiver Andrew Hawkins will join forces with Tom Brady after announcing Wednesday that he will sign with the New England Patriots.

Hawkins, 31, spent the first three seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals before joining the Cleveland Browns in 2014. In his three seasons in Cleveland, his starting quarterbacks were:

Brian Hoyer
Johnny Manziel
Connor Shaw
Josh McCown
Austin Davis
Cody Kessler
and Robert Griffin III

Playing with Brady was one of the reasons Hawkins cited for choosing New England in a video posted by Uninterrupted:

“In Cleveland, I said it was about joining a contender. The Patriots are THE contender,” Hawkins said. “You get the opportunity to play with the best quarterback and the best coach in NFL history.”

The signing will carry him out of Ohio, the state that’s been the backdrop to some of his biggest moments as a football player. Hawkins was a standout at the University of Toledo, where he played as both a receiver and cornerback, but garnered little interest from NFL teams after graduating in 2008. That led him to Canada, where he won a pair of Grey Cup titles in his two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes.

That championship pedigree helped draw interest from American scouts, and he landed with the Bengals after a brief preseason stint with the Rams. The 5’7 slot receiver contributed immediately in his first NFL season, notching 23 receptions while emerging as an important safety valve for quarterback Andy Dalton.

That led the Browns to come calling in 2014, signing the elusive wideout away with a four-year, $13.2 million pact. He had the best season of his career that year, catching 63 passes for 824 yards before being thrown into the swirling cesspool of ridiculousness that is the Cleveland quarterback rotation. The club mercifully released him — and the $1.8 million he was due in 2017 — on Feb. 27.

The beginning of his year was still productive, though, as Hawkins graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree and a 4.0 GPA.

Despite six years of NFL contributions, he may be most famous for posting one of the greatest Instagram videos of all time.

Only Hawkins fans allowed under my roof ✊. @ajgreen_18 @king_sanu_12

A post shared by Andrew Hawkins (@hawk) on

Now, he’ll try to revive his career with the Patriots, an offense that has often thrived off of undersized and speedy receiver like Hawkins. It’s a fit that makes sense for both parties and could produce the numbers that evaded the receiver in Cleveland.

Hawkins may struggle to break into a Patriots wide receiver rotation that's deeper than it's ever been. New England traded its first round pick to the Saints for dynamic deep threat Brandin Cooks. He's the headliner for a group that includes Pro Bowler Julian Edelman, 2016's yards-per-catch leader Chris Hogan, Super Bowl hero Danny Amendola, and rising second-year wideout Malcolm Mitchell. He'll also have to compete with a pair of undrafted free agents who caught Bill Belichick's eye with productive college careers -- Austin Carr and Cody Hollister.

After adding Hawkins, the Patriots opted to part ways with Devin Street — a 2014 fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys who was claimed by the team earlier in May.

The price for Hawkins' opportunity to pair up with Tom Brady will be extended special teams duty. If he can't blow away the competition in training camp, he'll have to make an impact on punt coverage to justify his place as a 31-year-old wideout whose best performances are likely in his rear view.