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AFC North Offseason Grades


Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens hit their defense hard on both free agency and the draft. Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr were the team's two biggest free agent additions during normal free agency, although the addition of Jeremy Maclin might be the biggest signing for Baltimore. The Ravens first three draft picks, Marlon Humphrey, Tyrus Bowser, and Chris Wormley add some talent to each level of the defense - though Humphrey looked like a reach in many respects. The biggest concern for Baltimore is that there is simply nothing on their roster in terms of running back. Danny Woodhead was a good signing as a veteran backup but he is the only proven runner on the team. Unless the Ravens are waiting to address the position after week 1, when no contracts will need to be guaranteed, or more likely, right before training camp with a veteran seeking an incentive laden contract, the Ravens figure to be deficient on offense again this year. There was not a lot to like about this offseason in Baltimore. Offseason Grade: D


Cincinnati Bengals: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ That statement sums up the Bengals offseason rather well. In free agency the team lost a lot of leadership, including their best two offensive linemen - Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeigler. Defensively Domata Peko and Karlos Dansby, two of the defensive leaders, are both gone. In the draft, however, the Bengals selected a first round caliber player in the first four rounds. John Ross will make it impossible to double cover both Tyler Eifert and AJ Green. He was a great selection in the first round. Joe Mixon would have been a top fifteen selection had it not been for the video of him punching a woman. Many teams considered him undraftable, the Bengals clearly did not and got great value for him. Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson were both first round talents that fell to the middle rounds. Willis has some production questions while Lawson had injury concerns. Both can rush the passer and should improve the Bengals defensively. Overall the team had a great draft and an awful free agency period. If the coaching staff has properly developed their younger players along the offensive line this team will be explosive. That’sa big risk to take, however. Offseason Grade: B


Cleveland Browns: The Browns dominated offseason chatter again this year having over $80 million in salary cap space and the first pick in the draft. Cleveland used their money, and draft capital wisely, but their most interesting move was to use some of their cap space to take Brock Osweiler off the hands of the Houston Texans, after a single disappointing season. That Osweiler is playing well is somewhat superfluous, though any meaningful contribution from him adds to the bounty that Cleveland enjoyed this offseason. Based on experience, and the need to have some veteran presence to mentor Deshone Kizer, Osweiler seems likely to earn the starting job. Kevin Zeitler and JC Trotter were the two biggest free agent additions to the team, who have clearly decided that acquiring offensive linemen in free agency is preferable to using early draft picks on them. The Browns offensive line now looks like a strength. Allowing Terrelle Pryor to leave was considered a mistake by some but Pryor is not worth what he commanded on the open market. Jason McCourty and Calvin Pryor were also nice additions to the team. Draft wise Myles Garrett was the consensus best player in the draft. Jabrill Peppers is a nice chess piece for Greg Williams and David Njoku has the look of a long term starting tight end. Deshone Kizer may well be the operative player in this class though. Should he develop enough to earn the starting job soon then it will free up the Browns to take more position players next year, when other teams are focused on quarterbacks.  Offseason Grade: B+


Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers had a relatively quiet offseason, preferring to focus on their own free agents as opposed to hitting the market. Offensively a returning Martavis Bryant will team with Sammie Coates, Antonio Brown, and rookie Juju Smith-Schuster to give the Steelers a very deep receiving corps. Le’Veon Bell will also return which makes the Steelers offense quite scary. Defensively, losing Lamar Woodley in free agency could come back to haunt the team but there is still plenty of talent along the defensive front seven. TJ Watt adds depth to their linebacking corps and could move inside in a pinch. Where the Steelers are lacking is in the secondary. Other than veteran free safety Mike Mitchell the Steelers have question marks at their other secondary positions. Last year’s first two draft picks, Artie Burns and Sean Davis,  will move into starting positions at strong safety and cornerback. Ross Cockerall is penciled in to start opposite Burns. It’s good that they have the weapons that they have on offense because they might have to score thirty plus points in any given week if they want to win. I’m not sure they are better than last year but they are so much better than the rest of the division it shouldn’t matter until the playoffs. Offseason Grade: C

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