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Free Agency Grades: AFC North

Nate Bouda April 1, 2012 Bengals, Browns, NFLTR Features, Ravens, Steelers No Comments

Baltimore Ravens

Additions: RB Ray Rice (F), C Matt Birk (R), LB Jameel McClain (R)

Subtractions: G Ben Grubbs, LB Jarret Johnson, DT Cory Redding, S Tom Zbikowski, Ricky Williams (Retired)

The Ravens didn’t have much trouble taking care of their top priority in RB Ray Rice, considering that they were able to franchise him. Now they’ll have to figure out a way to lower his asking price a bit as it was previously suggested that he was looking for a deal close to Adrian Peterson‘s.  But other than that, things weren’t very good for Baltimore during free agency.

The loss of Ben Grubbs is pretty significant because he and Marshal Yanda did a good job of making up for suspect play from their OT’s. Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding were great fits for their 3-4 defense so they’ll have to find some adequate replacements at some point, and the draft would make the most sense considering where we are in the offseason.

Ozzie Newsome has said that he would like to add another WR, and the offensive line needs some more depth as well. Another RB would make sense considering that Ray Rice is really the only proven player at the position and finding long-term replacements for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed is getting to be a more pressing issue with each passing season.

If they can accomplish half of that in the draft, it will be a pretty big success.

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Cincinnati Bengals

Additions: S Reggie Nelson (R), RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, DT Pat Sims (R), OT Anthony Collins (R), CB Adam Jones (R), K Mike Nugent(F), CB Jason Allen, G Travelle Wharton, LB Manny Lawson (R)

Subtractions: DE Frostee Rucker, DE Jonathan Fanene, G Nate Livings, WR Andre Caldwell

Despite having as much available cap space as anyone, the Bengals put together a relatively quiet offseason thus far. They lost some defensive linemen early on, but Frostee Rucker was really the only notable player to leave.

After that, the Bengals did a pretty good job of filling out their roster with some talent. Retaining Pat Sims, Reggie Nelson and Manny Lawson should help to stabilize their defense next season, and the addition of Jason Allen should help their secondary out a bit. The fact that they were able to sign Green-Ellis to a three-year deal worth $9 million is a big win. They didn’t over commit to paying a free agent RB which is always good, but still managed to upgrade the position from Cedric Benson.

Cincinnati still has $20 million in cap space to work with but they’re not going to be forced to use it until next season, which could end up being a great move for them depending on who’s available. They now head into the draft with two first-round picks and enough depth to target some of the best available players rather than draft a specific need. That’s not to say that there aren’t positions that need to be addressed, but more that they can take some chances.

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 Cleveland Browns

Additions: LB D’Qwell Jackson (R), DE Frostee Rucker, DE Juqua Parker, K Phil Dawson (F), CB Dimitri Patterson (R)

Subtractions: RB Peyton Hills, OT Tony Pashos, G Eric Steinbach, G Artis Hicks, S Mike Adams

I have to say that it was surprising to see the Browns show absolutely no interest in QB Matt Flynn, but that could end up being a great move depending on how things go in Seattle for him.

Cleveland locked up D’Qwell Jackson to a pretty sizable five-year deal worth $42.5 million. Now, that probably seems like a crazy deal to hand out to a player that has the injury history that he does, but the Browns did include some injury provisions, along with some outs later in the deal that will prevent them from paying him for the duration of the contract. I like the Rucker and Parker signings because they’re both serviceable players that should really help to shore up their defensive line.

Peyton Hills left for the Chiefs and wound up signing a one-year deal worth a meager $3 million. I’m sure the Browns offered him a better deal than that months ago, but he’s probably not the RB that you want to commit to long-term. Adam was a decent S for them, and I thought cutting Pashos was a shady move after he played the entire 2011 season with a torn PCL while still being productive.

The Browns are another team that has positioned themselves for a big draft, but their obvious needs (RB, WR, QB) will probably force them to address the positions in the early rounds. There’s really no question that Cleveland could have done more to help their offense in free agency.

C

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Additions: None

Subtractions: LB James Farrior, DE Aaron Smith, G Chris Kemoeatu, WR Hines Ward, CB William Gay

The Steelers took a calculated risk by trying to keep the team together as long as they have, and it’s left them in a pretty precarious spot financially. Despite not signing anyone, the Steelers were consistently in the headlines because of the numerous contracts that they restructured in order to get under the salary cap. I’m actually surprised that there weren’t more notable players released but getting Farrior and Ward off of their books really helped, financially speaking.

Mike Wallace has actually been the biggest story for the Steelers thus far. They currently have around $6 million in cap space to re-sign him with, and considering that reports have mentioned that he’s looking for a deal similar to Larry Fitzgerald‘s contract, it appears he’ll be staying in Pittsburgh for at least another season. The only problem is that they’ll be faced with a similar situation next year when Antonio Brown becomes a restricted free agent. They may not be able to give both of them fair-market contracts, so 2013 will most likely be just as interesting.

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