AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers


New Bengals T La’el Collins told QB Joe Burrow that his new bodyguard has arrived in town and is excited to join a franchise that competed for the Super Bowl.

“There are good fits and perfect fits,” Collins said, via “I felt like this was the perfect fit from the jump. Obviously my history with (offensive line) coach Frank (Pollack). The type of coach he is. His standards are high. He’s the best offensive line coach I’ve been around since I’ve been in the NFL, hands down. And getting back to work with him. And also the players on this team you see and look at the guys around that helped bring this team to where it is. What other team would you want to be part of?”

  • ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports the Broncos, Patriots and Panthers all had interest in signing Collins before he opted to sign with the Bengals.


  • The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd writes Browns QB Baker Mayfield and his reps thought the team would go after Vikings QB Kirk Cousins given HC Kevin Stefanski‘s familiarity with him. However, the Browns never seriously considered trying to trade for Cousins. 
  • Lloyd also reports the Browns told Mayfield at the Combine they would explore their options when it came to potentially adding an elite quarterback, otherwise they intended to bring him back. 
  • There were 13 teams that initially expressed interest to the Texans in trading for QB Deshaun Watson, per Lloyd. He reviewed the rosters of all 13 and cut it down to five. The Texans eliminated one of those teams because they were in the division. Other reports have said the Colts were denied permission to meet with Watson. The final four teams were the Browns, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. 
  • The Browns’ contingent to meet with Watson included owners Jimmy Haslem and Dee Haslem, GM Andrew Berry and HC Kevin Stefanski. Watson and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, were present with agent David Mulugheta and personal QB coach Quincy Avery attending via Zoom. 
  • Lloyd says the meeting lasted over two hours, 30 minutes of which was regarding Watson’s legal situation, the rest on football. The Browns say they received overwhelmingly positive feedback from people in Watson’s past, though they did not reach out to Tony Buzbee, the lawyer representing the 22 women with civil cases against Watson for sexual misconduct. 
  • Cleveland did talk to three women on Watson’s legal team who vetted his case before they agreed to take it on. What they said helped the Browns feel comfortable trading for Watson, according to Lloyd. 
  • As far as the football pitch, the Browns highlighted their youth and the building blocks they have on both sides of the ball, compared to a team like the Saints which were also set up for success but on the older side. Cleveland felt the Falcons were their biggest competition though and Lloyd says Atlanta went hard on the sentimental pitch, using photos of Watson as a ballboy with them growing up. 
  • Still, the Browns were the first team eliminated, as Watson had reservations about going to Cleveland, especially because his only game there was in awful weather. He did love their roster though and Lloyd points out that was key in him circling back to the Browns later. 
  • Once Berry heard the Panthers were eliminated because they refused to guarantee the third and fourth year of Watson’s contract, he saw that as an opportunity to re-engage. The new five-year, $230 million guaranteed deal is what got the Browns back in it and ultimately secured Watson. 
  • Lloyd adds Watson’s camp did not shop that offer to the other teams still in the race, which were the Saints and Falcons. One of those teams called Mulugheta and asked why they didn’t get the opportunity to match, because they would have, and the response was Watson wanted to go to Cleveland. 
  • One team that called the Browns about Mayfield before the Watson trade broke got the impression Cleveland wanted a first-round pick for Mayfield. (Albert Breer)
  • Browns QB Jacoby Brissett‘s one-year deal has a base value of $4.65 million, including $4.5 million guaranteed. Brissett could have a chance to earn more with incentives. (Tom Pelissero)
  • Browns WR/KR Jakeem Grant signed a three-year, $6.88 million deal that includes a $2 million signing bonus and $3.035 million guaranteed. He’ll make base salaries of $1.035 million (guaranteed), $2.845 million and $3 million. (Aaron Wilson)
  • There are also $10,000 in per-game active roster bonuses for 2022, $20,000 in per-game roster bonuses for 2023 and $30,000 in per-game for the 2024 season. Grant can make $1.75 million playtime-playoffs and first-team All-Pro incentives annually. 


  • CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora thinks Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is looking at $50 million a year or so on his long-term deal whenever he gets it and reiterates that Jackson isn’t afraid of playing out two more years in 2023 and 2024 on the franchise tag. 
  • Ravens S Marcus Williams signed a five-year, $70 million deal that includes a $14.965 million signing bonus. He’ll have salaries of $1.035 million, $1.08 million, $12 million, $12 million and $14 million. (Aaron Wilson)
  • His 2022 and 2023 base salaries are guaranteed and $5 million of his 2024 base salary is guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2023 league year. There’s also a 2026 option year to be optioned prior to the start of 2023 league year. 


New Steelers QB Mitchell Trubisky offered some insight into why he picked the Steelers as a free agent destination and what is appealing to him about their offense. 

“They want to get to the play-action RPOs and really open up the offense and use a dual-threat quarterback, so when I heard that, that was very appealing to me,” he said via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “I want to be in a situation where I’m able to use my legs and my arm, being able to run a little bit and keep the defense honest, and being able to open my teammates up as well, in the run game, whether it be zone-read or moving the pocket or sprint-outs or bootlegs, and all that stuff. That really opens up the playbook and I just thought it’d be a great combination.”

Trubisky also talked about his year as a backup with the Bills, the differences between that and his first four seasons with the Bears, and what he hopes to carry with him to Pittsburgh as lessons learned. 

“It was just speeding up your on-field processing, but at the same time being able to play free and use your instincts … That balance,” Trubisky said. “I think the communication and the trust between the QB room and Coach Dorsey and Coach Daboll, it really just allows you to play free and use all your strengths as a quarterback. And when they go to the game plan, when they call plays, they want to call them to your strengths and what you like.

“And you go through all that during the week. Even in-game communication, they want to run exactly what you feel comfortable with and plays you like. And so when you do that, you’re able to go out there, use your instincts, play free and it allows you to process a lot quicker on the field, so the ball’s going to the right place.”

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