AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

Bengals RB Joe Mixon is well aware of how big running back contracts are viewed in the modern NFL. But together with his fellow members of the 2017 draft class, including Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and Saints RB Alvin Kamara, Mixon is trying to redefine the thinking about the position. 

“I talked to Cook a couple times, talked to Alvin a couple times,” Mixon said via the Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “It was cool. We had a lot of conversations. We was just saying we’ve got to go ahead and help this running back market out for the guys coming up and potentially the guys in the future. I was just taking it upon myself to really help those guys and be able to prove and help this running back market and go out there when the season starts and produce and be able to show this is why you pay running backs. I mean, we’re a big part of the offense.”

The next few years will be the true test of whether Mixon and others can shift the dialogue surrounding the position or if their deals will be seen in the same light as contracts signed by Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell. But Mixon says he’s focusing more on doing his best and letting the results speak for themselves. 

“I’m not here to prove anybody wrong,” Mixon said. “I’m just trying to prove (the Bengals) right for why they paid me. That’s what I do. That’s what I love to do. I’m here to play the game. I love the game, and I love being here as a Bengal. I love my teammates and just being able to have this opportunity, I’ve got to be able to produce so they get that narrative out of everybody’s head, and just try to help the young guys and show them how it’s supposed to be done. I’m blessed enough to be able to be in this position to go ahead and do that.”

  • Dehner says the Bengals are in good cap shape for 2021 even with Mixon’s deal and should be able to retain whoever they want of their pending free agents. 

Browns

Browns’ HC Kevin Stefanski says that DE Myles Garrett is looking good as he returns to practice from injury.

“Myles did a nice job yesterday,” Stefanski said, via Scott Petrak of BrownsZone.com. “He is no worse for the wear.”

Starting LG Joel Bitonio says that RG Wyatt Teller has earned the position opposite of him, despite the Browns having several guards opt-out of the season.

“I know Wyatt worked his butt off this offseason,” Bitonio said. “He was truly focused. He wanted to help transform his body a little bit and just be ready to play. He has had some chances his first two years in the league and he has been on a couple of different teams, but he understood this right guard spot was going to be a competition and he wanted to work for it. He has done everything he has really needed to. He has come out there, he has competed every day, he has worked hard and he has continued to get better like the rest of us.”

Primarily a returner, WR JoJo Natson has been surprised to be a part of the receiver rotation in training camp.

“I just look at it as Coach giving me an opportunity to show what I can do as a receiver,” Natson said. “I am just taking that one day at a time and learning from the guys in the room. That would be love if I could use some of my speed on offense.”

  • Browns RB Nick Chubb acknowledged he’s aware of how extension talks are going for other running backs around the league but he’s not really focused on it right now: “I see it, I’m aware of it. But I just focus on this team right now. I believe whatever happens will be for the better.” (Scott Petrak)

Ravens

  • Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline says the Ravens are still the team he hears are the most likely to sign DE Jadeveon Clowney. However, he has no direct knowledge of talks between the two. 
  • Ravens QB Lamar Jackson said he’s feeling fine and the time he missed due to a groin injury was mostly precautionary: “It’s 100 percent. It’s 100 now.” (Jonas Shaffer)

Steelers

With 2021’s potential cap drop portending a budget shortfall for the Steelers, players like DL Cameron Heyward who are in the final year of their contract have been left in limbo. The Steelers don’t appear ready to sign any new deals now and have a longstanding policy of not negotiating during the season. However, owner Art Rooney II gave some hope for Heyward’s future in Pittsburgh lasting past this year. 

“No doubt, Cam has been an outstanding player for us on and off the field,” Rooney said via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “What he means in the locker room is tremendous. That is why we’d love to keep him, extend his contract. Whether it’s before the season or after the season, he’s going to be one of our priorities to make sure he’s here next year as well.”

  • Rooney said the big question the team had about QB Ben Roethlisberger going into this year was his arm strength after elbow surgery. However, Roethlisberger has impressed in that area during camp: “One thing we know now that we didn’t know in May, before training camp, was what level of strength does Ben have in his arm? I think we’re all comfortable after watching him in training camp. His arm strength is maybe better than it was last year.” (Brooke Pryor)
  • Rooney said extending Roethlisberger past his current deal that expires at the end of 2021 is something that’s very much on the table for Pittsburgh: “Obviously after the season we’ll evaluate his contract situation along with other contract decisions we have to make. But if Ben feels like playing longer and it looks like he’s capable of doing it, certainly that would be a great scenario.” (Bouchette)
  • As for HC Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert, both under contract through 2021 with a team option for Tomlin in 2022, Rooney said they would address those contracts this offseason. 
  • Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey said he tore his meniscus in the second-to-last game last year but was able to heal without surgery this offseason. (Pryor)
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