AFC North Notes: Bengals, Browns, Steelers

     

Bengals

By the time April rolls around, all the noise about LSU QB Joe Burrow not wanting to be picked No. 1 by the Bengals could be just that — noise. However, Burrow isn’t exactly throwing water on the notion, pointing out he does have “leverage” after a historic season in 2019. 

“I do have leverage,” Burrow said via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “They have their process and I have my process. We haven’t even gotten to the (NFL) Combine yet. There’s a lot of things that happen leading up to the draft and a lot of information gathered. Right now, I’m focused on being the best football player I can be. I’m in this unique spot. You can go watch my film. I don’t have to prove myself at pro day and at the Combine, so I’m in a unique spot where I can focus on getting ready for the year.”

Burrow does have strong roots in Ohio, growing up in Athens and playing the first few years of his college career at Ohio State before transferring to LSU. He told KTCK-AM the thought of playing close to home “would be a lot of fun.” But again, Burrow notably avoided any direct reference to Cincinnati. 

“I can’t wait to play for whatever team that drafts me,” he said. 

Bengals HC Zac Taylor acknowledged that he can’t help but be aware of all the Bengal bashing going around. Despite a run of consecutive playoff appearances, Cincinnati still hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991 and a 2-14 season in 2019 offered ample opportunity for commentators to pile on. Taylor said the only way to change the narrative is to win more. 

“It’s become such a big deal the last few weeks you can’t avoid it,” Taylor said via the Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “You got to win more football games to get people to shut up. Or whatever it is, have a higher respect, whatever you want to call it. It’s up to us to win more games and follow our plan, do it the right way, execute it. Build the team the right way, do it through free agency and the draft and keep building the culture we built upon and we will be in really good shape.”

  • According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Bengals will work to find a trade for QB Andy Dalton, which would save the team $17.7 million if done by June 1st.
  • Rapoport specifically mentioned the Patriots as a likely trade destination if Tom Brady decides to move on.  

Browns

  • According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Browns RB Kareem Hunt expects to be back in Cleveland despite his marijuana-related traffic stop earlier this offseason. 
  • Hunt expects to be tendered either as a restricted free agent and would be open to signing a long-term deal with the Browns. 
  • Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot confirms the Browns won’t add any veteran competition for QB Baker Mayfield in 2020. 

Steelers

Judging by comments from Steelers leadership, the franchise will likely focus most of its efforts on bolstering the offensive side of the football after a strong year defensively in 2019. Other than using the franchise tag on LB Bud Dupree, Pittsburgh doesn’t need to make many personnel changes on a unit that led the NFL in sacks and turnovers. Despite that, members of the Steelers’ defense are focused on making big improvements internally on what they called just a good, not great, 2019 season. 

“We never did anything great, spectacular,” Steelers S Terrell Edmunds said via the Athletic’s Mark Kaboly. “We did a whole lot of good things, we made some good plays, but we didn’t make too many great plays even though we had the stats. I guess this is something that we can work on this offseason and something we have to build off of and be able to take that next step. We are doing a lot of good things, but not a lot of things great and that’s what we want to do.”

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