AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens


The Bengals are aware they need to get better on the offensive line after QB Joe Burrow was sacked 19 times in the playoffs alone. But they have resisted the narrative that they need to go hog-wild with free-agent signings and draft picks. Bengals HC Zac Taylor says sometimes the answer is on the roster and the team is high on the long-term outlook of a trio of rookies from 2021 — second-round OL Jackson Carman, fourth-round OL D’Ante Smith and sixth-round C Trey Hill

“Everyone wants everyone to be a day-one starter and hit the ground like a 10-year vet and it takes a bit of time,” Taylor said via the Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “We certainly feel good about the group we brought in last year, we just want to see continued improvement from them and now they get a chance to go through their first offseason, their first training camp as a real pro in Year 2.”

  • Dehner notes LT Jonah Williams is the only starter assured of a spot in 2022. The other four positions on the line are up in the air. 
  • Dehner says the staff and OL coach Frank Pollack were impressed with Smith’s debut and thinks he could be an answer at either right guard or right tackle: “Great kid, works hard. He’s got tremendous tools to work with. We’ll see where we come out of this offseason and see where he’s at.”
  • Bengals C Trey Hopkins is a strong candidate to be released given the $6 million in savings, per Dehner, but he adds Hill probably isn’t ready, especially from the mental side, to step in to replace him. 
  • Dehner adds Pollack had to coach Carman hard, and the rookie was benched multiple times while battling weight and maturity issues. He responded well but the onus is on him to come back for OTAs in shape and ready to roll. 
  • Bengals de facto GM Duke Tobin acknowledged that if the Bengals feel they’re getting a clear upgrade, they’re not ruling out making a free agent splash, and they have plenty of cap space to work with: “If we feel we are going to get the value out of it and feel there is a fit and upgrade for our football team, we’ll try to make whatever move we can.”
  • As for the kind of guys he’s looking to add, whether in free agency or the draft, Pollack says the most important thing is for his linemen to be “glass eaters” — aka someone who is relentless and violent. He added: “We need guys who are athletic, who can run, who can play at the second level in the run game. Guys who can bend, who can anchor in protection. Guys who show he can play with length, can punch. Guys who obviously are smart.”
  • Georgia OL Jamaree Salyer said he’s met with the Bengals while at the NFL Combine. (Ben Baby)
  • Salyer mentioned that teams have spoken to him about playing multiple positions and received praise for his versatility. 
  • UCLA OT Sean Rhyan also met with the Bengals and said they asked him to break down film while inquiring whether he was a “good person.” (Ben Baby)


Browns HC Kevin Stefanski said that he wouldn’t say that QB Baker Mayfield is unchallenged, regarding the team’s competition at the quarterback position.

I’d push back a little bit that he’s not challenged,” Stefanski said, via Akron Beacon Journal.

When it was clarified that “challenged” meant competition within the quarterback room, Stefanski began to walk back his statement and left the door open for the team to bring in additional players at that position this offseason.

In terms of the room and those types of things, I’m not going to get into that necessarily,” Stefanski said. “But I think Baker, all of our players understand that it’s a competition, you’re getting challenged every single day. They treat every day like a challenge, so I’m comfortable with how that goes. But how the rest of the offseason goes, I think we’ll see.

The Browns utilized rollouts and a moving pocket, which made Mayfield successful in 2020, however, Stefanski acknowledged that teams did a good job of taking that aspect of their offense away in 2021.

It was not the shoulder. We were not limited in what we were doing with Baker as he worked through the injuries,” Stefanski said.

Stefanski said that there needs to be better execution from the pocket in order to be successful.

If teams are not going to let you get on the perimeter, there’s still ways to run play action and try and win from the pocket. If they’re not going to let you get on the perimeter, you’ve got to find ways to make them pay from the pocket.

Getting Mayfield’s swagger back and fully healthy is at the top of the to-do list for Cleveland this offseason.

Baker’s a confident player. He’s done it. We’ve all seen him do it, so I don’t think he lacks for confidence,” Stefanski said. “I think this is a great offseason for him to get healthy and then have an offseason together, get him in the building with the rest of the team and work together and try and get better. That’s kind of our focus.


Ravens GM Eric DeCosta said he’s exchanged messages with veteran DL Calais Campbell and told him Baltimore would like to have him back next season. 

“We have exchanged text messages,” DeCosta said, via Clifton Brown of the team’s official site. “I don’t want to speak for Calais, but I asked Calais, I basically said, ‘Listen, if you want to play, I’d like you to let me know at some point because we thought you had a good year, you are a good player. I have a lot of admiration for Calais as a person and as a player and as a leader. I’m hopeful that we can bring him back. We’d love to bring him back. He’s a guy that plays winning football and he does as much for the team and the organization in the building as he does on the field. I have a lot of respect for him.”

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