AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers



  • ESPN’s Ben Baby mentions Bengals DE Carl Lawson as Cincinnati’s toughest pending free agent negotiation, as Lawson might want to go somewhere where he can be more of a full-time player. 
  • According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Bengals will roll over approximately $10,792,275 in cap space to 2021, with the final amount pending an audit by the NFL. 


  • ESPN’s Jake Trotter notes that Browns WR Rashard Higgins is a strong candidate to return despite how much Cleveland has invested at receiver given his strong rapport with QB Baker Mayfield
  • Browns GM Andrew Berry declined to discuss the team’s contractual plans with Mayfield, who is eligible for a long-term deal and has his fifth-year option coming due this spring. But he did say they were happy with Mayfield: “I don’t think this is the appropriate forum to discuss. But I think he did an excellent job this year. Played winning football all year, developed really strong relationship with Kevin and staff. We’re very, very pleased.” (Scott Petrak)
  • Berry indirectly responded to a question about whether they would focus more resources on improving the defense this offseason: “It’s a fair observation that resources last year were spent mostly on offense to support the quarterback.” (Nate Ulrich)
  • Berry highlighted Browns S Ronnie Harrison as someone who the team was impressed by despite starting behind the eight-ball after arriving via trade: “I thought he played very well this year. Not easy task to learn a new system, jump right in and make plays. We were excited about what we saw from Ronnie.” (Petrak)
  • Neither Browns CB Greedy Williams nor second-round S Grant Delpit played at all in 2020, but Berry is confident in their futures: “Very optimistic, very bullish on their physical recovery and their ability to (come back) and play at a high level for us.” (Mary Kay Cabot)
  • Berry dismissed the theory that the Browns offense was better without WR Odell Beckham, saying the improvement without him was due to the offense practicing more together and that he wants as many good players as possible. (Aditi Kinkhabwala)
  • According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Browns will roll over approximately $30,366,604 in cap space to 2021, with the final amount pending an audit by the NFL. 


  • ESPN’s Jamison Hensley writes the Ravens face a major choice on which player to retain between OLBs Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. Judon has been seeking a contract worth $20 million per year while Ngakoue struggled to make a huge impact after arriving via trade. 
  • Ravens HC John Harbaugh said as the team looks ahead to 2021 they have a good idea of how they’re going to address their various weaknesses: “I’m really optimistic and enthusiastic about where we’re going. …We have a very good handle on what those things are. Some of those things I’ll share w/ you, some of them I won’t.” (Aditi Kinkhabwala)
  • He noted that if Ngakoue comes back in 2021, he would have a different role and more snaps, so it’s not fair to judge him too much off of his performance in 2020. (Hensley)
  • Harbaugh expects both OC Greg Roman and DC Don Martindale to return in 2021. (Jeff Zrebiec)
  • Baltimore’s passing attack under Roman has been criticized for being too simplistic, but Harbaugh disagreed and went to bat for his coach: “We run all the routes. We’ve got all the concepts….We’ll build the passing game around our players.” (Zrebiec)
  • Harbaugh told reporters the plan is to sign QB Lamar Jackson to a long-term deal: “Absolutely, we want him to sign a long-term deal. When it happens, that’s the details.” (Hensley)
  • However, Harbaugh acknowledged that there’s still more they want to see from Jackson going forward: “He’s a young player still and he’s going to continue to grow. Lamar is just embarking on that, just starting on that. … The truth is that he needs to get better just like all the players.” (Zrebiec)
  • One way the Ravens could help Jackson grow is by improving the receivers around him and Harbaugh noted it’s something the team will consider: “It depends on who you are going to get and what’s the cost and whether he wants to be here. I think a big, physical receiver would be awesome for us. We can use anybody who is talented and good.” (Zrebiec)
  • Harbaugh added they don’t want anyone who doesn’t want to be there: “I’m not going to beg anyone to be here… If you’re all about stats and numbers and your stat line and how many balls you catch, there are a lot of other teams you can play for and we’ll look forward to playing against you.” (Kinkhabwala)
  • Even more than wide receiver, Harbaugh said solidifying the offensive line is “priority one.” (Zrebiec)
  • Harbaugh mentioned he expects former Ravens RB Mark Ingram to find work after being released by the team: “He’s got plenty of football left. He’ll contribute next year and beyond.” (Hensley)
  • Regarding strength coach Steve Saunders who was suspended for breaking the COVID-19 protocols and causing a chunk of the Ravens’ COVID-19 outbreak around Thanksgiving, Harbaugh said he plans on retaining him in 2021: “We all had issues, players and coaches and staff with the protocols at times. … He came back, he apologized to numerous players, apologized to coaches. He felt really bad about it.” (Zrebiec)


  • ESPN’s Brooke Pryor points out that with the Steelers’ cap issues, strong depth chart at receiver and history of not giving out second contracts at the position, it’s all but inevitable that WR JuJu Smith-Schuster tests the market. 
  • Over The Cap’s Nick Korte released updated compensatory pick projections. Typically Korte’s projections are the most accurate available, but he acknowledges this year will be potentially less accurate because of changes to the league’s confidential formula stemming from the new CBA and the pandemic. 
  • Nevertheless, Korte projects the Steelers to receive fourth and sixth-round picks for the loss of DT Javon Hargrave and S Sean Davis.
  • According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Steelers will roll over approximately $4,950,555 in cap space to 2021, with the final amount pending an audit by the NFL.
  • The Steelers are reportedly delaying the announcement of their hire at offensive coordinator, thought to be QB coach Matt Canada, until they can hire a new offensive line coach who fits with their hire at OC. (Gerry Dulac)
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