AFC North Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers



Traditionally the Bengals have not been big spenders in free agency. The organization prefers to build through the draft and spend money on retaining its own talent, like giving out an extension to WR Tyler Boyd last summer. However, Cincinnati’s roster has deteriorated to the point that HC Zac Taylor acknowledges the team will have to approach free agency differently, though maybe not more aggressively. 

“More aggressive is not the word, it’s finding the right people that fit what we want to do and trying to build this thing the right way,” Taylor said via the Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “It’s a supplement to the draft. We talk about it all the time with specific prospects, we’ve had multiple meetings this week already and then we’ll see how it all shakes out for us, we identify our needs, we’ve talked specifically about guys we like and all feel like we are on the same page, then see where it all shakes out. Obviously, you probably always feel like you overpaid to an extent.”

Taylor made it clear that overpaying to fill a need in free agency was one of their biggest worries. 

“You just hate to go down the road of just because we said we had this need at this position you’re going to overpay whatever at that position, that’s where you end up going down the wrong road there,” Taylor said. “I don’t even know if overpay is the right word. You have to find the right people at the right position. There are plenty of qualities you are looking for, we are trying to find the right guy at the right price.”


While the 2019 Browns coaching staff was a disaster in many ways, RB coach Stump Mitchell‘s work was an exception and earned him a shot to stay on the new staff. The Browns’ running backs were a bright spot last season, with Nick Chubb nearly leading the NFL in rushing with 1,494 yards and Kareem Hunt coming off his eight-game suspension to round out a dynamic 1-2 punch late in the season. Mitchell says going forward in 2020 the RB room is focused on making good on the potential many saw last year. 

“The most important thing was the type of talent we have here, knowing what we’re capable of doing even though we didn’t get it done last year,” Mitchell said via Andrew Gribble of the team’s official website. “(ST coordinator Mike Priefer) kind of said it best. It’s unfinished business. There’s things we should have accomplished but we didn’t totally get it done. Having the opportunity to come back with the running backs — Nick, Kareem, Dontrell and D’Ernest — there’s definitely going to be a satisfying feeling. Now we’ve just got to learn a new system and go out and get it done.”

  • ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler mentions Titans OT Jack Conklin as one of the top free-agent tackles available for the Browns to pursue. 
  • NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero reports the Browns had already informed OT Greg Robinson they would not be bringing him back in 2020 before his arrest for marijuana possession. 
  • New Browns OC Alex Van Pelt said he plans to work with QB Baker Mayfield to sharpen his fundamentals: “There’ll be probably a change in the footwork. It’s extremely important to me.” (Mary Kay Cabot)
  • Van Pelt confirmed he’ll double as the QB coach: “I plan on being the voice in the room.” (Cabot)
  • However, he didn’t say if he or Browns HC Kevin Stefanski would call plays, adding no decision has been made and he’s comfortable either way. (Scott Petrak)
  • Van Pelt indicated both Chubb and Hunt figure prominently into Cleveland’s plans on offense in 2020: “I would think we’d have those guys on the field a lot because of those [mismatch] issues.” (Tony Grossi)
  • Browns DC Joe Woods said he plans to stick with the 4-3 base defense despite coming from a 3-4 defense with the 49ers: “The personnel is set up to run the 4-3.” (Nate Ulrich)
  • Priefer revealed he had interest from other teams but his preference was to honor his contract and stay with the Browns. (Ulrich)



  • According to Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen, Steelers LB Bud Dupree has left his agency, CAA Sports, and will sign with a new agency following the NFLPA’s mandatory five-day waiting period. 
  • NFL Media’s Gregg Rosenthal lists Dupree as a strong candidate for the franchise tag. 
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10 months ago

49ers didn’t run a 3-4. Woods hasn’t coaches in a 3-4 other than his years in Denver.