As the post-free agency, pre-draft limbo drags on, let’s take a look at where each team in the AFC North stands. Here’s a recap of needs at the beginning of the offseason, what moves each team made and how each team may proceed.
Needs are generally in order of importance. Has your team made significant upgrades? Downgrades? Status quo? Has your team ignored anything? How would you rank your team’s needs?
CB: One of most important needs. Hall is returning form his second torn Achilles tendon, Adam Jones and Terrance Newman are aging, and Dre Kirkpatrick has yet to prove he was worth a first round draft choice. They could take a CB in the first two rounds. Signing RJ Stanford isn’t much of a move.
DE: Another area the Bengals figure to use an earlier round pick (rounds 2-3) on. They signed Sam Montgomery, who has to prove he belongs in the NFL after being cut by the Texans and Raiders since entering the NFL last season. The Bengals lost Michael Johnson, and like to have a deep, deep, deep defensive line.
DT: Atkins is returning from a torn ACL; Peko is more of a veteran leader than star playmaker; The Bengals could take a DT in the middle rounds.
LT: Collins left in free agency so Whitworth may move back to LT since FA acquisition Marshall Newhouse is more of a depth signing. Finding a viable LT outside of the top 10 is difficult, so the Bengals may draft a guard later.
C: Cook was released. Whitworth at G was a help, but he may forced back to LT. Mike Pollak or Trevor Robinson are the current choices for C.
QB: The Bengals signed Jason Campbell, who the Bengals hope can provide veteran mentorship and stability to Dalton. Hue Jackson plans to rely more on the run this year, but with Dalton entering a contract year, the Bengals need to figure out the QB position.
The Bengals also signed safety Danieal Manning.
It’s difficult to rank the Bengals’ needs. Each position of need is in solid shape, but could use a role player to really bolster the unit, so needs were closely tied to who is available to the Bengals in the draft.
How early would you want the Bengals to draft a QB? With three consecutive playoff appearances in addition to increased win totals each year, what will constitute a successful season in 2014? Will the Bengals struggle to transition with a new DC in Guenther and new OC in Jackson?
QB: Hoyer is recovering from a torn ACL, and may not be ready when the season begins. Alex Tanney is the only other QB on the roster. Draft gurus expect the Browns to take a QB with either the 4th or 26th pick; Farmer has indicated that he doesn’t favor this year’s top QBs, nor does he believe taking a QB so early is necessary. True or not, the Browns need a QB at some point in the draft.
ILB: Swapping Jackson for Dansby seems like a push, but the coaching staff believes Dansby will provide the attitude the team needs. Outside of Dansby, the Browns don’t have a reliable starter or depth (Craig Robertson is penciled in as the other starter).
WR: Gordon is clearly the #1 WR. Hawkins and Burleson are solid additions, but aren’t #2 WRs. They’re solid #3/#4 contributors, however. Little has a lot to prove to make the team, and the remaining receivers on the team are long shots to make it; most are either deep, deep, deep depth, or camp fodder.
CB: The Browns are working on an extension with Haden, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He and Skrine could use depth behind them.
S: Again, the coaching staff let a very solid player in TJ Ward go in favor of signing someone who they though embodied the mentality they hope to instill. Whitner will be a great addition, but Gipson should be replaced.
RB: Tate is a great addition, and will shoulder the bulk of the carries. He has to remain healthy, however, Dion Lewis is currently the #2 RB. The Browns could take a RB with a mid to late round pick (4-6), maybe the 3rd round if Hyde slips.
The Browns’ needs aren’t ranked with consideration given to the draft.
Browns fans have been clamoring for upgrades on the offensive line. Whether that involves shuffling players around or not, the Browns will likely draft an offensive lineman. How much of a priority is this? What position on the line do you want them to draft? How would you arrange the offensive line? Is McQuistan a good enough signing to quell panic?
Editor’s note: This article will be split into two parts, the second of which will run when I feel like writing it, you animals. I didn’t initially intend to dig so, so deep into researching, evaluating and recapping each team.