AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers


  • The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. writes the top priority from the Bengals this offseason, as folks inside the building have expressed to him, is to fix the offensive line and protect QB Joe Burrow
  • Aside from Jonah Williams starting at one of the tackle spots, Dehner says everything else is up in the air. He adds C Billy Price will probably get the first crack at replacing injured Trey Hopkins and can prove he was worth his first-round draft status. 
  • After betting on internal development going into the 2020 season, Dehner adds the Bengals are ready to make significant, proven investments in the offensive line. Patriots G Joe Thuney, an Ohio native, is the top target in that area. 
  • Dehner doesn’t expect either OT Bobby Hart or C B.J. Finney to be back in 2021, which will save the Bengals $9 million. He does get the sense they’d like to bring back G Quinton Spain to compete with Michael Jordan and Xavier Su’a-Filo.
  • Cincinnati will also likely do extensive homework on prospects in the draft, including Oregon OT Penei Sewell and Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater as possibilities with their No. 5 pick in the first round. 
  • The Bengals are interviewing former Cowboys RB coach Gary Brown for the same position on their staff. Brown took the year off from coaching in 2020. (Tom Pelissero)
  • Bengals CB Mackensie Alexander had all battery charges against him dropped stemming from when his father went missing last year. (Peliserro)


Browns’ RB Nick Chubb is taking the suggestion of HC Kevin Stefanski following their playoff loss in Kansas City on Sunday and will dwell on the game for the next couple of days. This includes a pair of dropped passes that Chubb is wishing he could have back. 

“It was tough,’’ Chubb said Monday, via Mary Kay Cabot of “It didn’t go my way at all. I can only learn from it. It happened, and I’m just mad at myself because that’s something I worked so hard to improve on was catching the ball in the offseason, and up until yesterday, it’s been working for me. So I can only learn from it, get back to work and when the time comes again, be ready for it. Yeah, I am down, but it’s just those close games when you lose like that, that hurt way more than when you get blown out and just knowing that one drive could’ve made a difference in us going home or playing next week, and just for me personally, I hold myself to a high standard of playing at a high level every game, and I didn’t do that yesterday. Had a couple of errors, so I’m down about that, too.’’

  • Albert Breer mentions that Browns’ QB Baker Mayfield will see the price of his fifth-year option fall somewhere in the low $20 million range.
  • Breer adds that while they will have to make a decision on Mayfield’s option by early May, this will be the first year in which options are fully-guaranteed on the date they’re exercised. Breer points out that this means the Browns would essentially be committing to Mayfield for two years.


Following up his MVP campaign from 2019 proved to be difficult for Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. He was still the same dynamic player in many ways, rushing for over 1,000 yards again, but defenses had many more answers for Jackson and the Ravens offense this season. Jackson struggled to quickly recognize zone coverages at times and the Ravens passing game, through design or talent, didn’t give him answers at other times. Those struggles have been magnified in the playoffs the past three years. But just as Jackson made a tremendous leap as a passer from his rookie to his second season, Ravens WR Willie Snead believes he can make a similar jump from this year. 

“He is an elite runner, an elite passer, but there are steps he can take, better strides that he can take, and he knows that,” Snead said via the Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec. “That’s the competitor in him to want to get better each and every offseason, to fix the little things that his game needs improvement on and continue to get better as a passer. I think if he knuckles down on that part of his game and really reaches his full potential in that area, then the sky is the limit for Lamar, man. It’s just a matter of time. So, it’s really on him. I think this game is going to be a wake-up call for him, hopefully this offseason.”

  • Jeff Zrebiec says that the Ravens defensive staff has lost and could potentially lose many more coaches, including LB coach Mike Macdonald, DL Joe Cullen, DB coach Jesse Minter, as well as others.
  • ESPN’s Jamison Hensley confirmed MacDonald left to take the defensive coordinator job at Michigan. 
  • Vanderbilt will also hire Minter as their defensive coordinator. (Pete Thamel)
  • Despite being waived this week, CB Davontae Harris said he expects to be back with the Ravens shortly: “They had to per league rules! Don’t be surprised to see me again.” (Twitter)


  • The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly thinks the asking price for Texans QB Deshaun Watson will be too rich for the Steelers’ tastes.
  • He adds in terms of a bridge quarterback the easiest option for them is to just roll with Mason Rudolph for another season behind Ben Roethlisberger
  • Kaboly writes that Steelers HC Mike Tomlin will probably be the coach in Pittsburgh for as long as he wants to. However, he doesn’t necessarily expect Tomlin to sign an extension next summer, with after the 2021 season the next window to do so. 
  • Texans DE J.J. Watt will naturally be connected to the Steelers this coming offseason given Pittsburgh employs his other two brothers. However, Kaboly notes financial constraints could prevent the team from making that happen. 
  • Kaboly doesn’t expect the Steelers to pick up S Terrell Edmunds‘ fifth-year option this coming offseason. 

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