After a lengthy hiatus, we decided to bring back an offseason edition of the AFC North "Stock Watch." The NFL season appears just around the corner as a new collective bargaining agreement is reportedly nearing its completion.
So let's look at who's stock is rising and falling this offseason.
1. Carson Palmer, quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals: Palmer went from a quarterback who helped lead Cincinnati to the playoffs in 2009 to a disgruntled player who wants out a year later. The Bengals refuse to trade Palmer and he looks headed for retirement. Stock can't get any lower than that. Palmer, 31, struggled at times last season but still can be a solid starting quarterback for a contending team. But Palmer might not get that opportunity this season.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have to pick up the pieces after a troubling offseason that included three separate controversies. Hines Ward and Rashard Mendenhall both have their issues to deal with. But the most recent incident could be the most explosive. Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison had disparaging remarks in a magazine interview for many in the NFL community, including two of his own teammates. This isn't the kind of start a team wants in an effort to try to get back to the Super Bowl. Make no mistake, the talent is still there for the Steelers to be a good team. But I don't see a seventh Super Bowl in their future this season.
3. Adam Jones and Cedric Benson, Bengals: The last players who could afford to have their names in the police blotter are Jones and Benson, who both have had their share of run-ins with the law. Jones already served two major suspensions by the NFL for past transgressions with the Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. He is down to his last strike, which is why his most recent arrest for disorderly conduct is concerning. Jones says he's innocent -- and he better be right. If found guilty, it could lead to a permanent suspension and Cincinnati parting ways with the controversial cornerback. Benson is a free agent and may have hurt his stock significantly following an assault charge over the weekend.
1. Baltimore Ravens: Last week I received a lot of heat for picking the Ravens to win the AFC North in 2011, but I'm sticking with that prediction. Unlike the Steelers, no news has been good news for the Ravens. The players have stayed out of trouble and even rallied behind their quarterback, Joe Flacco, who has faced a bevy of criticism this offseason from media, fans and opposing players. Any little edge between the Ravens and Steelers could make the difference in this competitive rivalry, and Baltimore has fewer questions right now. The Ravens also don't have many big issues in free agency, with the exception of offensive lineman Marshal Yanda, who we will get to later.
2. Johnathan Joseph, cornerback, Bengals: Joseph, 26, is a young cornerback and in his prime, and that should pay off huge in free agency. Quality corners are making an average of $8-$10 million per season, which is probably the neighborhood Joseph is looking to land in. The only question is whether Joseph gets his money in Cincinnati or elsewhere. The Bengals were unwilling to come up to that amount before the lockout and it might be the same circumstances post-lockout. But Jones' neck injury/arrest and the likelihood of mandatory spending could put Joseph back in play for Cincinnati.
3. Marshal Yanda, offensive lineman, Ravens: Yanda is one of the more underrated names in free agency, but he should get some interest around the league. The Ravens like Yanda and want him back. His potential departure would leave a big void on the right side of the offensive line. Yanda brings a lot of versatility, and that will be coveted by other teams. He started at both guard and tackle for the Ravens last season. The proposed 72-hour window for teams to negotiate with its free agents could be big for Baltimore and Yanda.