AFC Notes: Bengals, Browns, Steelers


Bengals HC Zac Taylor acknowledged S Jessie Bates‘ importance to the team when asked about his contract situation.

Jessie’s approach has been tremendous all year. Really been proud of him,” Taylor said, via “He’s a big part of what we do. We’re really proud of how he’s led this team and how he played for us, really, over the last four years. Those are conversations that will always be ongoing. I think everyone knows we want Jessie to be a part of this. We’ll just continue to work through those discussions.


  • An ESPN roundtable of national reporters Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano plus Browns beat reporter Jake Trotter weigh in on the Browns’ situation with QB Baker Mayfield. Graziano writes Mayfield’s salary is guaranteed but not high enough to the point where it would preclude the team bringing in competition. 
  • He adds he even gets the sense the Browns wouldn’t be averse to trading Mayfield if another team was interested and offered enough to make it seem like they weren’t just giving the former No. 1 pick away, though it’s questionable how likely that is. 
  • Fowler and Trotter think signs point to Cleveland being patient and giving Mayfield a chance to prove 2021 was poor because of his injuries. But Fowler points out the Seahawks and Lions have senior executives who were high-ranking in the Browns’ front office when they drafted Mayfield. 


  • The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly writes that judging from Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s social media activity, he’s probably signing elsewhere besides Pittsburgh this offseason. 
  • Conversely, Kaboly is more optimistic about Steelers DL Stephon Tuitt returning in 2022, though 2021 was rough year for him between a knee injury and the death of his brother. 
  • Kaboly ballparks a deal for Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick at around four years and $60 million in total value, with past history suggesting it will be hammered out right before the start of the season. 
  • While the Steelers would save $7.9 million by cutting LB Joe Schobert, Kaboly doesn’t think they’ll go that route unless they really need the cash or land a clear upgrade
  • Kaboly highlights Steelers OT Zach Banner, who is due $5 million in 2022 and has missed the bulk of the past two seasons, as a prime candidate for a pay cut. 
  • Although the Steelers don’t typically tend to give big second contracts to wide receivers, Kaboly believes WR Diontae Johnson could be one of the exceptions. An extension for him probably would be worth a bare minimum of $15 million a year. 
  • Past history also suggests if the Steelers let a player play out their rookie deal, they don’t end up re-signing them, which Kaboly brings up regarding S Terrell Edmunds
  • The Steelers have both CBs Joe Haden and Ahkello Witherspoon set for free agency, and Kaboly notes it’s probably more likely they get Haden back on a short deal than Witherspoon. 
  • Kaboly expects Steelers G Trai Turner to get more money and more commitment from another team even though he was Pittsburgh’s best offensive lineman in 2021. 
  • Steelers WR James Washington and OT Chukwuma Okorafor‘s rookie contracts are up and Kaboly doesn’t foresee Pittsburgh re-signing either. 

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