Inside the AFC North


Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here are several notes and observations from within the division:

  • Is this a contract year for Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson? According to the details of his deal, it's very possible. Anderson signed a three-year, $24 million contract in 2008 but it's looking more and more like a two-year deal. Anderson's base salary balloons from $1.4 million this season to $7.45 million in 2010. Unless Anderson wins the starting job outright over Brady Quinn and puts up Pro Bowl numbers, the Browns likely won't pay Anderson's $7.45 million salary next year, which isn't guaranteed. Anderson also is due a $2 million roster bonus next offseason, further hurting his chances to return to Cleveland beyond this year.

  • The Brandon Marshall-to-Baltimore rumors have slowed down significantly in the past several days, because there is growing belief in NFL circles that the Denver Broncos have no interest in moving the disgruntled receiver. I'm hearing that money (as usual) has a lot to do with Marshall wanting out, because if 2010 is an uncapped year Denver would own his rights for the next two seasons. Marshall is 25, and it's always safer and more lucrative to get a huge extension now than it would be at 27. It is also questionable whether Marshall would fit in with the Baltimore Ravens anyway, as head coach John Harbaugh recently stated character and integrity in his players are important factors.

  • Although it's a minor increase, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry told me during last week's minicamp that he is up to 205 pounds this offseason. That is approximately five pounds of muscle added to his listed playing weight from last season. The Bengals have asked Henry (who's nicknamed "Slim") to add weight to his lanky, 6-foot-4 frame for at least the past couple of years. But that has always been a challenge for Henry. He will try to put on a few more pounds before the start of the regular season, if possible.

  • Finally, here is a little secret for ESPN.com's AFC North readers: I just completed an anonymous player survey for the division. I collected a good sample of players from all four teams, and the only rule was they couldn't vote for their own teammates. We will reveal the results gradually throughout the month of July. But the reason this was brought up is because one survey question was for toughest player in the division, and several rivals wanted to vote for Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward but said they couldn't bring themselves to do it. This happened at least once in the locker rooms of the Browns, Bengals and Ravens, which I thought was very interesting. It's a clear example of the mutual respect for Ward's toughness yet hatred for the 12-year veteran throughout the division.