Good Morning, AFC North!

Good Morning, AFC North!
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Free Agency Primer

UFAs of Note
LB Michael Boley; OT Anthony Collins; S Chris Crocker; CB Brandon Ghee; DE Michael Johnson; S Taylor Mays; P Zoltan Mesko; G Mike Pollak; OT Dennis Roland; TE Alex Smith; WR Brandon Tate.

The Bengals have relied heavily for a couple of seasons now on a deep and talented defensive line. They’d be happy to bring Michael Johnson back. [However], Cincinnati made significant financial commitments to Carlos Dunlap (five years, $40 million) and Geno Atkins (five years, $55 million) prior to last season, and it’s quite possible the Bengals may [not want to invest more big money on the D line].

Anthony Collins and Mike Pollak saw significant snaps along the offensive line in 2013, but the Bengals believe they have options there because of Andrew Whitworth’s ability to play guard or tackle and because the team believes there is decent depth at tackle available in both the draft and free agency.

The Bengals normally lock up their own free agents during the offseason, and look for bargains that can offer some upside to fill out depth. The team doesn’t have many needs, so I don’t expect the to be very active in pursuing other teams’ free agents.





Browns didn’t interview any QBs at Combine

The Browns also want to go more in-depth with the quarterbacks than they can do in the 15-minute combine interviews, which are often rehearsed and rushed.

GM Ray Farmer places a premium on character, saying it’s the one thing that could change his mind about a player from the end of the season to the draft.

“You start to get a better feel for who the person is,” Farmer told before the combine. “I’ve always been told that your talent may get you places but if your character can’t keep you there, you’ll fail.” But Farmer is willing to overlook character concerns, if the player can demonstrate that he’s learned from his mistakes.

“They all need to be as good a people as they can (be),” he said. “If you don’t have some dirt under your finger nails, you’re not (experiencing life). We all have to experience some negatives and you have to turn some of those negatives into positives.

The Browns can host up to 30 players for workouts and medical exams before the draft, and they’ll likely host the top QBs in addition to others. Cleveland brass will travel to Clemson today to watch WR Sammy Watkins’ workout and to OSU on Friday to evaluate RB Carlos Hyde.





Pitta excited about his potential role within Kubiak’s offense

“What I know of the offense is watching Houston the last few years and seeing their tight ends, Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham, put up great statistics,” Pitta said. “And it’s not all about statistics, but they’ve been productive.”

Texans tight ends combined to catch 216 passes for 2,350 yards and 23 touchdowns during the last two seasons under Kubiak. In total, Houston quarterbacks targeted a tight end on 342 passes during those two years. In comparison, Ravens tight ends were targeted on just 256 passes during that same period, a difference of more than five targets per game.

With 12 players set to become free agents next Tuesday, locking up one of the few offensive weapons the Ravens have was important. The Ravens will likely still be in looking to draft a TE in May, as Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson showed that they aren’t viable NFL TEs in Pitta’s absence.





Any extension for Ben Roethlisberger has to include less dollars, more say

Leverage in a contract negotiation does not have to come in the form of dollars or length of contract. What if Roethlisberger, the first player to earn $70 million on a $100 million contract, isn’t concerned with just money? It doesn’t seem entirely out of line for him to voice his opinion on the direction of the roster (see Gerry Dulac’s tidbit about the team wanting to draft a tall receiver with one of their first two picks in the upcoming draft).

Just for the sake of painting a clearer speculative picture, is it unreasonable to think this statement from Roethlisberger was made to the team amid their negotiations? “When you’ve gotten A, B and C done, we’ll talk about me taking less less money.”

Money is going to be the bottom line for NFL players. That’s reality. But the truly powerful ones have the rare opportunity to have something of organizational control.

I don’t think Roethlisberger is trying to gain power here. QBs all value a tall, red zone WR target, and Roethlisberger is no different. He’s not going anywhere, but there isn’t any need or value in letting Roethlisberger have a significant voice in the direction the offense takes. Running the no huddle while pump faking and scrambling for his life isn’t an offense; Haley’s system is what Ben needs at this point in his career.



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