- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's see what's in the weekend mailbag.
James Walker: Jon, here is the deal in Cleveland: Holmgren is backing McCoy 100 percent this season. It's now McCoy's job to prove he's the long-term solution. The Browns likely will have an awful record and be near the top of the draft if McCoy doesn‘t succeed this season. That would make Cleveland a natural candidate for a quarterback. But the future of the position will be dictated by McCoy's play in 2011.
Bozo the Brown from Cleveland writes: If the Browns stay the course and only build through the draft without getting big-name free agents, how long do you think it will take them to be solid, constant playoff contenders?
Walker: Bozo, the NFL changes so fast that I only take things one year at a time. From what I've seen, the Browns will not be contenders in 2011. They lack talent in a lot of areas and are going through too much transition. Therefore, Cleveland is at least two years away. That's as far as I'm willing to look ahead.
Luke from Harrisburg, PA, writes: What do you think of the Steelers potentially going after ex-Vikings OT Bryant McKinnie?
Walker: I don't see it, Luke. McKinnie is out of shape and likely will be expensive. The Steelers don't have the time and the cap space to deal with that right now. If anything, I think there is a chance a veteran tackle like Flozell Adams or Max Starks returns at a cheaper rate. Otherwise, the Steelers will stick with what they have.
Mike from Chantilly, VA, writes: How do you feel the Steelers should utilize their WRs in preseason?
Walker: Good question, Mike. Injuries to Emmanuel Sanders (foot) and Hines Ward (thumb) could turn out to be a good thing for Pittsburgh. This will give the Steelers a chance to take a harder look at younger receivers like Antonio Brown and Limas Sweed. Pittsburgh needs to know what it has in those players before the regular season. Ward, Mike Wallace and Sanders already have firm roles on the team.
Zane from Wichita, KS, wants an update on Steelers rookie running back John Clay.
Walker: I thought I would see more from Clay during my visit to Latrobe. He's a big back but runs high, and his pass protection looks shaky. Maybe the rookie will get better as training camp goes along, but it was a rough start for Clay.
Brian from Baltimore writes: James, why aren't the Ravens making big moves during the free agency period?
Walker: Baltimore didn't start with much cap space, Brian. The Ravens weren't as strapped as Pittsburgh. But Baltimore had to make some veteran cuts in order to free up space. Keeping guard Marshal Yanda and adding Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach were solid moves. They nearly got receiver Malcom Floyd. He would have been a great addition. But losing out on Floyd and failing to get Derrick Mason back hurts. Now the focus is finding a veteran receiver (Jerricho Cotchery?) and extending the contract of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Anthony from New York writes: Does re-signing Cedric Benson to a one year deal mean the Bengals are done looking for a RB?
Walker: Benson is the projected starter, Anthony. So the Bengals are moving forward with him. If Benson has to miss games, which is unknown, the Bengals would have to adjust from there and likely go with Bernard Scott or Brian Leonard.
Kevin R. from Cincinnati writes: Since the Bengals traded Chad Ochocinco to the Patriots, do you think it would be a wise move to sign a veteran WR to help the younger guys out?
Walker: I don't think it's necessary, Kevin. The Bengals are rebuilding and have plenty of depth there. That is why they traded Ochocinco. A.J. Green, Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell are a good, young group of receivers. Adding an older receiver will only take away playing time from these players.
Comment and complaint department
Here are the latest comments and complaints this week from our AFC North community.
Kovacs from Santa Monica, Ca., writes: I implicitly trust Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert, but I'm just sort of baffled as to why a bigger splash wasn't made in free agency. On the one hand, I really don't think this team is as talent-starved as a lot of people think. However, when there are some really talented corners out there (Carlos Rogers, Antonio Cromartie, etc.) and you end up with Dimitri Patterson, I can't help but scratch my head.
Walker: Kovacs, I agree that the Browns should have been more aggressive in free agency. There were better players available than the few they signed. The Browns' motto is they will continue building through the draft. But the next draft isn't until April 2012. The next draft won't help the Browns win games in September. I think the front office realizes the Browns are not close to contending. The Browns can't admit that to their fans. That would be bad for business. But you can tell in their approach the Browns are building towards 2012 and beyond.
Any Big-Name Free Agent writes: Why should I WANT to come to Cleveland? I can get paid anywhere. So money aside, why should I want to play in NE Ohio? Will Great Lakes Brewing make a beer named after me?
Walker: Without a doubt it's a tough sell, Any Big Name Free Agent. I've covered the Browns since 2005 and noticed the team usually has to pay the most money or have some kind of local tie to get a big name. The Browns often lose out when all things are equal. Cleveland simply is not a desirable city for the young and rich. The fact the Browns haven't won anything since returning to the NFL in 1999 also hurts. This is something Holmgren and Heckert have to overcome.
Dan from Cincinnati writes: James, you should do a story on how Bengals fans are switching teams. I know a lot of people (including my mom) who are becoming Browns fans because they are fed up of the constant [stuff] from Mike Brown. I'm becoming a Cowboys fan myself, but I think there are a lot of people out there like my family who no longer can take this crap.
Walker: Dan, we've done several blogs on angry Bengals fans. They range from celebrity Nick Lachey to Brett Kostoff, who traded his Bengals fandom on eBay to join Steeler Nation. I get more e-mails of disappointment from Bengals fans than any AFC North team. Most of the ire is directed toward ownership.
Chris from Ferndale, MD, writes: I don't like the signing of fullback Vonta Leach by the Baltimore Ravens. I'm sure the offense will be tempted to run more clock this year instead of actually putting teams away. It's fine if you want to eat time of possession, but do it with more than three points on your opponent. I keep hoping they'll wise up and let Joe Flacco's arm take over the steering wheel for a change. Ten dollars that doesn't happen this year.
Walker: Interesting take, Chris. Yes, the Ravens at times have been unable to put teams away. But you are one of the few who disagree with the Leach signing. He's arguably the best fullback in the league. That's a good thing when you can add the top guy at any position. Tailback Ray Rice was getting hit at or near the line of scrimmage too much last season. Leach should change that. Chris, I think you will like the signing once the season starts.
Milan from H-ville, OH, writes: Jayme Mitchell doesn't need to be Ray Edwards or Charles Johnson. Jayme Mitchell needs to be Jayme Mitchell. Do I know who he is? No. But from the look of it, this young man hasn't got his feet planted in the NFL or for a franchise yet. Which is great for me. I am excited to build a team from the inside. Not bring in MULTIPLE free agents or make trades to fill gaps. But Mitchell hasn't established himself yet. And if he has any engine to prove who he is, this is his opportunity, and I love betting on determination.
Walker: Mitchell is getting a lot of love this week from Browns fans. That is a good thing. Cleveland is counting on him. So let's see if he produces.
AFC North "Homer of the Week"
Our latest homer comes from our Browns "Camp Confidential" post. Enjoy.
M_vick8 writes: Browns will go 10-6 this year takings both games from the Bungles, both games from the Ravens, and will split with the Steelers 1-1! GO BROWNS!!!
Walker: This homer prediction is baffling, M_vick8. I'm surprised you believe the Browns will go 5-1 in the AFC North and 5-5 against everyone else. Why couldn't the Browns compete against the NFC West, for example, if they will be so dominant within their division? Congrats on being our "Homers of the Week."
If you have any additional questions, complaints or homer or hater comments, feel free to send them to our AFC North inbox.