AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers

     

Bengals

Bengals DC Lou Anarumo said the priorities are clear for Cincinnati as they look to continue to improve their defense this offseason. 

“Corners and rushers, man. Corners and rushers,” Anarumo said via Geoff Hobson of the team website. “You have to be able to affect the quarterback.”

It’s clear the Bengals are hoping to keep two of their pending free agents at those positions, DE Carl Lawson and CB William Jackson. Though Cincinnati runs a hybrid defense, they line up with a four-man front most of the time and Lawson is a perfect fit for that. 

“But in the end, we’re just going around in circles when you talk 3-4 or 4-3. They’re rushing the passer on the edge no matter what,” Anarumo said. “The bigger guys are generally more durable, but what matters is how much they affect the quarterback. Speed edge rushers are the guys that have always been the commodity you want and they come in all shapes sizes.”

Anarumo noted that while prized 2020 free-agent addition Trae Waynes ended up missing the entire season with a pectoral injury, he anticipates the veteran cornerback hitting the ground running and providing a major impact in 2021. 

“He was in the meetings. There are a lot of similarities with what he did in Minnesota from a coverage standpoint,” Anarumo said. “Trae will be fine. His body had a year off from getting banged around.”

Browns

Browns TE David Njoku submitted and withdrew a trade request last season due to displeasure with his role on the offense. In a couple of public appearances this offseason, though, Njoku hasn’t exactly given the impression that his desire for a trade is firmly in the past. When asked about it, Browns HC Kevin Stefanski said he isn’t aware of any issues between the team and Njoku. 

“David is somebody that I respect and value, the production he gave us on the field and the teammate he is,” Stefanski said via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. “As it relates to him in particular, I’m not aware of that. I know I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of players over the course of the season, over the course of many seasons, so I will continue to have that dialogue with all of our guys. But I’m not aware of anything in particular with David.”

  • Regarding the speculation about Njoku and former Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph being interested in Cleveland, Browns GM Andrew Berry said: “We’re really pleased with our tight end room.” (Jake Trotter)
  • Berry declined to comment on Browns QB Baker Mayfield‘s pending fifth-year option decision: “Won’t get into that publicly. … We’re excited about him. … We saw him grow last season and expect it to continue. We expect him to have a fantastic 2021 season for us.” (Ulrich)
  • Berry told reporters nothing has changed with how the team views WR Odell Beckham: “[He’s] a dynamic player who can be incredibly productive in this system, so we’re looking forward to getting him back healthy.” (Mike Garafolo)
  • Browns RB Nick Chubb is a candidate for an extension but there are other more pressing needs Berry pointed out the team needs to get to: “We have a lot of major decisions we need to make and the first ones are guys with contracts expiring in next couple of weeks. Nick is extension eligible. We certainly like Nick the player and the person.” (Ulrich)
  • Berry made it sound like WR Rashard Higgins will test free agency at the very least: “We’d like to have Rashard back. He played a key role last year. But free agency can be difficult. And he’s earned the right to make the decision most appropriate for him… and we’ll see where it goes.” (Trotter)

Ravens

  • The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec doesn’t think an extension for Ravens QB Lamar Jackson should necessarily be a front-burner issue for Baltimore this offseason, as it could take away some of their limited cap flexibility. He’d prefer to exercise Jackson’s option and wait until after his fourth season. 
  • Zrebiec reiterates that the Ravens will likely only trade OT Orlando Brown if they get a top-40 pick in return, otherwise they’ll have him play out the final year of his contract and hope to get a compensatory pick when he leaves in free agency in 2022. 
  • While the Ravens don’t have a ton of cap space, Zrebiec believes they’re eyeing the top interior offensive linemen projected to be available like Packers C Corey Linsley or Patriots G Joe Thuney in terms of making a splash. 
  • How the Ravens approach things will depend on what they do with G Bradley Bozeman, as Zrebiec says there are mixed feelings inside the organization on whether or not they should move Bozeman to center. 
  • Bozeman and Ravens TE Mark Andrews are next in line to get extensions, per Zrebiec, with DT Brandon Williams and DL Calais Campbell also options as ways to save cap space.
  • Even though the Ravens could use another pass-catching tight end, Zrebiec doesn’t see them making a major investment in either Eagles TE Zach Ertz or Rams TE Gerald Everett

Steelers

  • ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports the Steelers were “definitely in the mix” for J.J. Watt prior to him signing with the Cardinals.
  • Fowler says Watt “would have welcomed” playing alongside brothers T.J. Watt and Derek Watt. However, Fowler points out that Pittsburgh’s current cap deficit of negative $11.72 million worked against them pursuing Watt. 

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