AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers


In a press conference on Monday, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin was non-committal regarding the future of DL Geno Atkins, who is recovering from surgery for a torn rotator cuff. 

We’ll see as we go,” Tobin told reporters. “We’ll see what, if any, of the room we need to do some other things. We’ll see. It’s a fluid situation. I don’t have any updates on it right now. I know we’ve got high regard and hold him in high esteem. He’s been a Bengal his whole career and we’ll see if we can keep that going.”

Cutting Atkins would save Cincinnati $9.5 million against the cap.

  • Tobin mentioned that they have the “flexibility” to be active in free agency this year: “We are going to spend on players. We have flexibility this year.” (Lindsay Patterson)
  • Per Tobin, they’re still undecided about whether or not to use the franchise tag this year. (Ben Baby)
  • Tobin explained that head coach Zac Taylor and both coordinators were brought back for the 2021 season because “we think the stability will help us.” (Baby)
  • As for QB Joe Burrow, Tobin considers him an elite talent under center. “We’re going to do everything we can to build around him,” Tobin told reporters (Baby). “It’s going to start with him.”
  • Bengals CB William Jackson III says he’s looking forward to getting free agency over with and settling on where he’ll be playing in 2021: “I’ll be grateful wherever it is, whatever it is. I’m just ready to get this stuff out of the way and go right back to riding horses.'” (Aaron Wilson)


As things stand right now, Browns WRs Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are set to have the two highest cap hits on Cleveland’s roster. Although the Browns’ offense seemed to work just fine without Beckham for the majority of the 2020 season, Browns HC Kevin Stefanski said he has no issues with carrying both at their number in 2021. 

“I think we can, yeah,” Stefanski said via’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I think you don’t want to be so dogmatic about it and say, ‘All right. We have to have this number of receivers and this number of tight ends and this running back.’ I think you go with what you have and you make sure that you’re putting yourself in position to field a competitive roster for a bunch of years moving forward. So, yeah, I think we’re in a good spot. The easy part to say is, ‘Hey, just give us more players. Give us three more great players on the offensive side, and give us three players on the defensive side, and we’re going to spend this amount on each guy.’ I think we have a plan. We’ll follow through with that plan.”


  • The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec writes it might make more sense for the Ravens to target a veteran wide receiver given the draft picks they’ve invested at the position in recent years but it’s unclear how much they’re willing to spend as a run-first team. 
  • Per Zrebiec, the Ravens might put more of an emphasis on adding a pass-catching tight end to replace Hayden Hurst than going after a receiver, as given the style of offense the Ravens run, it could have a similar effect. 
  • Zrebiec adds the only starter the Ravens have penciled in for 2021 along their interior offensive line is Bradley Bozeman and they don’t know if he’ll play guard or center. If Baltimore goes hard after either Packers C Corey Linsley or Patriots G Joe Thuney, Zrebiec says it won’t be a surprise. 
  • Zrebiec thinks the Raven’s plan at outside linebacker is to re-sign Tyus Bowser and Pernell McPhee, cross their fingers and hope Jaylon Ferguson takes another big step, and potentially target a pass rusher in the first round. 
  • If they have an opportunity, Zrebiec believes the Ravens will try and add more of a playmaking presence at safety. They also have to think about the future with starting S DeShon Elliott entering his contract year in 2021. 
  • There’s also the looming situation with RT Orlando Brown, and Zrebiec notes the Ravens have to start thinking about a replacement one way or another, either if they trade him this season or wait until he moves on 2022. 


  • NBC Sports’ Peter King says Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is on board with the team’s sole focus this offseason of revamping the run game and a friend told King he was willing to take the $5 million pay cut in stride: “He’s in a great frame of mind. He really wanted to come back and take a legit shot [at a Super Bowl] this year.”
  • The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly expects the Steelers to use their first or second-round pick on a running back. 
  • Kaboly also thinks the Steelers will try to add depth at tight end, as the only players behind starter Eric Ebron are Zach Genty and Kevin Rader
  • At center, some options for competition for current Steelers incumbent C J.C. Hassenauer include former Bengals OL B.J. Finney or Dolphins C Ted Karras, per Kaboly. 
  • Kaboly writes there’s an outside chance Steelers LB Vince Williams is a cap casualty. But regardless, he adds Pittsburgh needs to bolster their depth at the position. 
  • He also mentions safety as a position the Steelers need to improve their depth, as in addition to upgrading the backup spots, the Steelers could need a new starter in 2022 if they decline S Terrell Edmunds‘ fifth-year option.

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