As the 2013 NFL season is approaching the end, most fans in the AFCN should have been able to move on from this season’s disappointments and started looking ahead. As they look ahead, here are the bad news and the good news for each team.
The Bad News: The Bengals were one-and-done in the playoffs with a talented team for the third straight year. After another poor playoff performance by the offense and Dalton, people are rightfully questioning whether the Bengals have the quarterback and the head coach to take them beyond the first playoff round. Add to that the loss of both their defensive and offensive coordinators, and it’s by no means a given that the Bengals can continue building on three good years and take that final step to legitimate super bowl contender.
The Good News: The Bengals are still a team with a lot of talent. They don’t have many unrestricted free agents (the most notable one is Michael Johnson) and they do have $24.7M of cap space. They should have no problems keeping players they want, and they have the means to acquire additional talent in free agency. Being a team without many holes on the roster, they will also be able to truly go “best player available” in the draft.
The Bad News: After a promising start to the season the Browns lost their final seven games and inspired little to no hope of being a team on the rise. The ownership and front office managed to make the situation even worse by firing the head coach and making Cleveland the least attractive place for people with a career in the NFL. They lost their offensive and defensive coordinators to other teams and this mess could possibly extend to difficulty attracting players in free agency. Finally, the quarterback situation remains a mess.
The Good News: The Browns, perhaps more than any other team in the league, have the ammunition to get better this offseason. They have $45.6M in cap space and only two notable unrestricted free agents (Alex Mack and T.J. Ward). They also have ten draft picks, seven of which are in the first four rounds, and after a 4-12 record they are picking at the top of the rounds. With all this ammunition, the Browns could use free agency to upgrade key positions on the roster and then work the draft to get a franchise quarterback.
The Bad News: The Ravens offense was one of the worst in the NFL and has a lot of holes to fill going forward due to both performance and free agency. Offensive line, tight end and wide receiver are all needs with Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson and Jacoby Jones being unrestricted free agents. Joe Flacco had an awful season, and while many give him a mulligan keeping his preceding five seasons in mind, any delusions of him being the quarterback we saw in the 2012 playoffs should be gone.
The Good News: The Ravens have some cap space to work with and should be able to keep two or theee priority unrestricted free agents and add a few outside ones like they usually do. They will also be drafting in the middle of the rounds in a draft that is reportedly deep with offensive line and wide receiver prospects fitting the Ravens’ needs. While they’ve traded away their 4th, 5th and 7th rounders, they are expected to get Miami’s 6th rounder and three compensatory picks that project as 4th rounders. Finally, last year’s draft picks, wideout Aaron Mellette and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore basically redshirted the 2013 season and could be viewed as bonus picks.
The Bad News: The Steelers are again in a tight salary cap situation with a lot of money committed to a core of players that have gone 8-8 two years in a row. They have 20 unrestricted free agents and notable ones include Jerricho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Ryan Clark and Jason Worilds. The Steelers will have a hard time keeping their own unrestricted free agents they like, let alone boost the team with outside talent. They will have to look to the draft to improve, which is “the Steeler Way” but may not be enough considering the overall quality of their roster.
The Good News: The Steelers finished the season going 6-2 in their final eight games. The offense seemed to finally be clicking and Antonio Brown emerged as a star wideout. Furthermore, the Steelers had a very good 2013 draft and have a track record of developing players. There may be several players from that group ready to step up in 2014. Le’Veon Bell could be the running back they’ve been missing since Jerome Bettis. Jarvis Jones, Vince Williams and Shamarko Thomas could all be starters next season and Markus Wheaton could be stepping into a #3 wide receiver role.