<
>

AFC North mailbag

Posted by ESPN.com James Walker

Lots of hype, questions and story lines between now and Super Bowl XLIII.

So let's see what's on everyone's mind this week.

Kevin from Pittsburgh, Pa. writes: With Flacco arguably emerging this year as a legitimate "franchise" quarterback (in much the same way Roethlisberger was anointed his rookie season), who do you see getting the better of this head-to-head rivalry in the years to come? With the two quarterbacks playing the same style on similarly designed teams, does this have the potential to go down in history as one of the greatest bi-annual divisional Quarterback match-ups ever?

James Walker: Great question, Kevin. Roethlisberger has an obvious advantage right now and a significant head start by winning his first three meetings against Flacco. But the Ravens just need their quarterback to gain more experience. Starting next year, I think the pair will begin a great head-to-head rivalry where both sides are going to experience wins and losses. Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals was expected to be Roethlisberger's biggest QB rival in the division, but Flacco will take his place because he plays for a better team. I'm not ready to compare "the best" anything until Flacco fully develops.


Brett from Madison writes: What up James, I need to know if Ray Lewis will be back with the Ravens next year...I will not be able to sleep at night if he is wearing another uniform...I know you can't predict the future, but you have a step on me in terms of information. Thanks

James Walker: What's good, Brett? A source I talked to at the end of the regular season believes both sides will hit the negotiating table pretty quickly. It doesn't guarantee they will strike a deal quickly, if at all. But it is a good sign that both parties have positive vibes and will be working hard to make sure Lewis stays in Baltimore. Will this info help you sleep for the time being?


AJ from Baltimore writes: Hey James, I know I'm looking ahead here a little bit, but what do you think of the Ravens trading Terrell Suggs to Arizona (his hometown) for Anquan Boldin? Needs for both teams would be addressed.

James Walker: If Suggs goes, the Ravens will need a dynamic outside pass rusher next year, which would make for an even bigger hole. So I don't see this trade as a possibility, AJ. Receivers are a dime a dozen, and Baltimore is not bad at the position with Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton. The Ravens just need depth. But expect them to look for it with a cheaper solution in the free agency or via the draft.


Reader from Pittsburgh, Pa. writes: JW read your post religiously everyday, must say I am addicted to it honestly. Question for you...Have you heard about this plan for the NFL to start replicating the infamous Terrible Towel for all 32 teams!!!It an outrage...funny thing is that the story has not seems to hit headlines yet...what is your take?

James Walker: Thanks for the kind words. I haven't heard much about it, but I don't understand the premise. It would rip the originality from the Steelers while at the same time force feed a new custom on other teams. For instance, the Tennessee Titans obviously do not like towels. Why would the NFL force them to make their own version?


Dan from Pittsburgh writes: James, Great Blog! I have a question about the Bengals. Since we all know Mike Brown is obsessed with Offensive Stars, do you think he could possibly bypass the team's true needs (O-Line, D-Line)in free agency and go for a blockbuster trade for L.T.? It would get the media talking about the Bengals offense again, and it would sell a ton of jerseys from the Pro Shop at PBS - Mike's main goal. Just wondering. Thanks for all of the hard work!

James Walker: Are you a Bengals fan in Pittsburgh? I think you have some explaining to do, Dan. To answer you question, Cincinnati trading for LaDainian Tomlinson is pure fantasy. First of all, there is no certainty Tomlinson is on the move. It's just a possibility at this point. Second, the Bengals are probably the last team Tomlinson wants to play for. My guess is that he would play for a contender outside the AFC conference if he is traded, which is usually what happens with superstars on the move (see Brett Favre). So keep dreaming, Dan.


Nick from Portsmouth, NH writes: Hey James, great job on the blog this year. I just heard a report saying the Julius Peppers is unhappy in Carolina and is looking to go to a really good defense. What do you think the possibility of the Ravens signing him are? I know D-line isn't a big priority this offseason but if a player like Peppers wants to play on your team, you have to at least examine the options don't you?

James Walker: It must be that time of year. There are lots of offseason questions today. I'm sure Steelers fans are also wondering if Peppers fits with their team as well. Although both teams fit Pepper's criteria of a great 3-4 defense, my first inclination is that Baltimore and Pittsburgh are happy with what it has -- especially with Peppers' price tag. Pittsburgh has more than enough edge rushers in James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Aaron Smith. Keisel is a solid player, too, when healthy. The only scenario I can see is if Baltimore decides to part ways with Suggs, which isn't in the plans. The Ravens can't afford both Suggs and Peppers, so they're probably going to keep their guy who is familiar with the system. Keep in mind, linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott and center Jason Brown are also free agents. It's impossible for Baltimore to keep all those players and still come up with another gigantic contract to add Peppers.