AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

  • Per ESPN’s Ben Baby, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said they would like to sign RB Joe Mixon to an extension: “Joe’s an important part of our team.”
  • Tobin defended the idea of signing a running back to a major extension: “It’s not about position, it’s about an ascending player who we want to keep around here.” (Geoff Hobson)
  • The Bengals signed DT D.J. Reader to a four-year, $53 million deal this offseason, which Tobin believes is money well spent due to Reader’s consistency, versatility and scheme fit in Cincinnati. (Baby)
  • While the Bengals aren’t usually major players in free agency like they were this past spring, Tobin said they needed to spend to fill the needs they had on the roster: “When you’re sitting where we’re sitting, a team normally needs an infusion of free agents to fill some of those needs.” (Baby)
  • Tobin thinks Bengals CB William Jackson is poised for a big season as he plays out his fifth-year option but he’s not sure if Jackson will be back on a long-term deal after the season. (Baby)
  • Tobin mentioned Cincinnati could keep four quarterbacks between the active roster and practice squad. (Hobson)

Browns

Browns WR Odell Beckham put a voice to what a number of players are probably thinking as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage and the NFL continues to push toward playing. Beckham said the only reason they’re going ahead with the season is for the money and he wouldn’t mind if the season ended up being canceled. 

“Obviously with everything that’s going on, it doesn’t make sense why we’re trying to do this,” Beckham said via Lane Florsheim of the Wall Street Journal. “I can understand basketball was already in the playoffs. Five-on-five basketball in an arena is going to be more intense than regular-season games. Hooping is different than playing an eleven-on-eleven contact sport where there’s 80 people in a locker room.

“We’re not ready for football season. So why are we trying to push forward? It’s obviously for their money. And that bothers me because there’s always been this — and I hate saying it like that — but the owners’ [attitude is], ‘Oh we own you guys,’ and just kind of that unfairness going on that they don’t see us as human. I just feel like the season shouldn’t happen and I’m prepared for it to not happen and I wouldn’t mind not having it.”
  • Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot says that Beckham’s interview was a few weeks ago and after seeing the Browns’ safety protocols he has no plans to opt out. 
  • CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora says he’s been hearing positive feedback from players through agents about new Browns HC Kevin Stefanski.
  • La Canfora notes it’s still Cleveland, which is infamously dysfunctional, but so far Stefanski has been highly competent, professional and is getting the players to buy in. 
  • Browns P Jamie Gillan came off the COVID-19 list soon after the NFL changed its protocols to account for “persistent positives.” (Tom Pelissero)
  • Gillan tested positive during Cleveland’s intake, but actually already had the virus earlier this offseason. His first test was negative and he also tested positive for the antibodies. 

Ravens

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has had a scintillating start to his career, winning the NFL’s MVP award in just his second season. But what looms the largest in Jackson’s mind are his two prominent failures in the playoffs his first two years in the league. As a rookie, Jackson struggled intensely as a passer in a playoff loss to the Chargers. Then last year after leading the Ravens to the AFC’s best record, Jackson and the entire team picked a bad day to have their worst day of the season. Avoiding that and getting to the Super Bowl in 2020 is the only thing Jackson is thinking about. 

“I think about it a lot, to be honest with you,” Jackson said via NBC Sports’ Peter King. “That’s where I wanna be. That’s when everything gets . . . crucial. It’s tough. I remember LeGarrette Blount DM’d me on Instagram. He was like, ‘you know, playoffs is different from regular season.’ I’m like, nah. But it is, because it’s win or go home. And I’m tired of going home. I just can’t wait to get back in that same spot and perform at a whole ‘nother level.”

Steelers

  • Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette thinks that the Steelers defense can take a big step forward in 2020 if S Terrell Edmunds has a breakout season.
  • Steelers DC Keith Butler said of S Minkah Fitzpatrick: “We realized he could handle a lot more than we were giving him at times. … We think he can help us quite a bit. We think he’s a top-tier guy in the league.” (Brooke Pryor)
  • Butler said they like what they’ve seen from third-round LB Alex Highsmith: “We like what he looks like right now, I want to see what he does when he gets pads on, seems to be a sharp kid. I think he can help us with depth at outside linebacker.” (Pryor)
  • Butler says that Bush and Williams will be the starting inside linebackers and that he expects Bush to “come alive” in his second year after a strong rookie season. (Pryor)
  • Steelers WR coach Ike Hilliard is the latest Pittsburgh assistant to heap praise on second-round WR Chase Claypool: “Chase is going to play a lot and he’s going to be good.” (Mark Kaboly)
  • Hilliard thinks Claypool’s blend of size and athleticism are tools that can help him be an immediate contributor as a rookie: “You can’t teach 6-4, 238, 4.41 time. That’s something that doesn’t fall off a tree. You get a chance to harness that kind of talent and shape it and mold it into something really special. I think as an organization, we’re all chomping at the bit.” (Pryor)
  • Hilliard also believes Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is ready to bounce back in 2020 after dealing with a lot of injuries last year: “I was fortunate enough to play 8 years and I had 12 surgeries. So I understand. … we all know that he’s going to be a guy that we want to get the ball to to jumpstart our offense in a big way.” (Pryor)
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