AFC North Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

  • The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. says the most likely outcome for the Bengals and WR A.J. Green is the veteran receiver plays out 2020 on the $18 million franchise tag. 
  • Cincinnati wants to keep Green but may be reluctant to give him the guaranteed money he would want in a long-term deal given his injuries the past two years, hence the likelihood of Cincinnati tagging Green but being unable to come to a longer agreement. 
  • Dehner writes there’s a solid chance Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard re-signs with Cincinnati again this offseason. 
  • Cincinnati could also look to re-sign LB Nick Vigil on a one-year, prove-it deal if he’s still around late in free agency. 
  • Dehner expects the Bengals to try and re-sign DT Andrew Billings and S Clayton Fejedelem, though both could be targeted by other teams and leave for higher salaries/more playing time. 
  • Dehner doesn’t see Cincinnati outbidding another team for TE Tyler Eifert, who was mostly healthy in 2019. 
  • Bengals DE Kerry Wynn, OL John Jerry and LB LaRoy Reynolds are unlikely to be back, per Dehner. 
  • Out of Cincinnati’s restricted free agents, Dehner thinks the Bengals place a second-round tender on DT Josh Tupou and S Brandon Wilson.
  • Bengals G Alex Redmond and TE Cethan Carter could receive original round tenders, while Cincinnati likely won’t tender LB Hardy Nickerson or CBs Torry McTyer, Tony McRae and Greg Mabin.
  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer writes the Bengals are likely to cut OL Cordy Glenn.
  • The Bengals will hire Nebraska OC Troy Walters as an assistant WR coach. (Dehner)

Browns

  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer writes the Browns could save $11.5 million by cutting DE Olivier Vernon, who had just 3.5 sacks in 2019.
  • Cleveland can also save $7.45 million by releasing LB Christian Kirksey, who’s played in just nine games the past two seasons. 

Ravens

  • The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec says that while the Ravens would like to keep CB Jimmy Smith, he would be behind Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters as an outside corner and behind Tavon Young as a slot corner. 
  • Smith could likely get $8-$9 million as a starting corner on the open market, which would be a lot for Baltimore to pay its No. 4 corner.
  • Smith has indicated he would be willing to give the Ravens a hometown discount, but Zrebiec says it remains to be seen if that will make up the difference between the two sides. 
  • Zrebiec doesn’t think the Ravens will be a fit as a potential trade suitor for Vikings WR Stefon Diggs
  • While Ravens OL James Hurst has been listed as a potential cap casualty, Zrebiec points out it makes sense to keep him into training camp in case of injury, as the cap savings would only be $2.75 million. 
  • Zrebiec mentions that Ravens scouts were well-represented at Iowa games and the team has a good relationship with the coaching staff, making Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa a name to watch if he slips in the draft. 

Steelers

Steelers OT Zach Banner‘s NFL career was on the brink back in 2018. A year after being drafted in the fourth round by the Colts, Banner had been waived by three teams and weighed well over 400 pounds from a binge eating disorder he picked up in college. When he landed with the Steelers ostensibly as a training camp body, Banner recognized it was his last chance. With the help of Steelers HC Mike Tomlin, he started to turn things around. 

“Coach T told me that he was going to make me earn it and he did. Motivate me and also test me,” Banner said via the Athletic’s Mark Kaboly. “Can you do it? Can you whip the threes asses, can you beat the twos, can you beat the ‘varsity players?’ I did, bro. Fifteen play team periods during camp and I was out there 12. Games? Each preseason game, how many did I play? It was hard showing what kind of player I was and still want to be.”

While Banner didn’t play in 2018, he dropped his weight down to 350 pounds in 2019 and beat out third-round OT Chukwuma Okorafor for the third offensive tackle position. He played 216 snaps as the jumbo tackle for Pittsburgh last year and now has the chance to earn the starting job at right tackle. 

“Coach T gives opportunities to people who want it and earn it,” Banner said. “If not, you won’t be here. I’ve earned it, now I need to earn more. I want more.”

  • Gerry Dulac and Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report the Steelers WR coach position is still open, with South Carolina WR coach Bryan McClendon interviewing for the job Monday despite reports he was offered the position. 
  • The Steelers also interviewed former WR Jerricho Cotchery for the WR coach opening. 

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