Inside the AFC North

March, 6, 2009
3/06/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here is this week's look inside the AFC North division:

     
      AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey
      Why didn't the Bengals franchise T.J. Houshmandzadeh to trade for draft picks?
  • The Cincinnati Bengals made yet another front office flub in letting receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh walk for nothing this week. The Bengals could have easily slapped the franchise tag on "Housh” in an effort to work out a trade for draft picks. Instead, Cincinnati used its tag on kicker Shayne Graham. (I'm still scratching my head on that one.) As a result, Houshmandzadeh signed with the Seattle Seahawks and left the Bengals empty-handed. Other teams like the New England Patriots (Matt Cassel) and likely the Carolina Panthers (Julius Peppers) are using franchise tags to work out trades. Why can't the Bengals?
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking a risk in letting No. 3 receiver Nate Washington flee to the Tennessee Titans. It's obvious that the Steelers were not going to pay their third receiver $27 million over six years. But in terms of on-field production, Pittsburgh runs a lot of three-receiver sets. So much so that you can almost count the third receiver as a starter in offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' scheme. Therefore it's a must that second-year receiver Limas Sweed is ready to step up for the defending Super Bowl champions. With few opportunities, Sweed didn't get to show much and had trouble catching the football. But the coaching staff is showing a lot of confidence in letting him take another big step forward in 2009.
  • Veteran cornerback Samari Rolle is looking more and more like the next salary-cap casualty for the Baltimore Ravens. There is a lot of writing being put on the wall by the Ravens, including the fact they went after cornerback Domonique Foxworth and signed him to a $27.2 million contract on the first day of free agency. With Foxworth and Fabian Washington likely the starters, Rolle would be an expensive nickelback to keep. Releasing Rolle, 32, would reportedly save a little more than $4 million off Baltimore's salary cap.
  • The Cleveland Browns' offseason program begins in less than two weeks (March 16), and it will be interesting to see who shows up. It's apparent that new head coach Eric Mangini means business. So although these workouts are "optional," it's in the players' best interest to show up to avoid being put in Mangini's doghouse right off the bat. Will star players like defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and receiver Braylon Edwards cooperate?

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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