Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
In the wake the news that wide receiver Hines Ward will be released, inside linebacker Larry Foote and defensive end Aaron Smith are projected to be the next Steelers cut, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Smith, who is scheduled to make $2.1 million this year, has seen four of his past five seasons cut short by injury. Foote, who would make $3 million this year, is expected to get released while declining starter James Farrior would remain.
Hensley's slant: It's been speculated for months that the Steelers would part ways with Smith and either Foote or Farrior to create more salary-cap room. Neither of these moves come close to stirring the emotions of the Steelers' fan base like the release of Ward.
BENGALS: Cincinnati's draft history says the Bengals aren't going to trade up to select Alabama running back Trent Richardson, according to the team's official website. The Bengals traded up once in the first round in their existence, and it resulted in the drafting of -- get ready to cringe -- running back Ki-Jana Carter. Cincinnati also has taken a running back four times in the first round: Archie Griffin in 1976, Charles Alexander in 1979, Carter in 1995 and Chris Perry in 2004. Hensley's slant: This is not surprising, but it's still disappointing. Adding Richardson would have given the Bengals their own version of the triplets with quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.
BROWNS: Running back Peyton Hillis fired his third agent in a year after parting ways with Kennard McGuire, ESPN's Josina Anderson reported. "If we can work something out with Peyton we will," Browns general manager Tom Heckert told Anderson. "Did he have some rough patches during the season? Yes. Were there stretches where things were blown out of proportion? Yes. Honestly, I feel like a lot of that was blown up in the media. Now, of course things will still come down to the money, but we'll just have to wait and see." Hensley's slant: This is the same agent who tried to deflect heat off Hillis this past season when he said he was the one who advised the running back to sit out a game because of strep throat. Hillis then fired him less than two weeks before the start of free agency. When a player cuts ties with an agent, it's usually when the player wants more than the agent thinks he is worth. This is another sign of Hillis' volatility.
RAVENS: Comcast SportsNet's John Eisenberg doesn't expect the Ravens to bring back inside linebacker Bart Scott, who spent seven seasons with the team. From all indications, the Jets are prepared to part ways with Scott, ESPNNewYork.com reported. "Scott will play somewhere in 2012, but probably not in Baltimore," Eisenberg wrote. "The Ravens want to get younger and faster at their signature position, not older and slower." Hensley's slant: I would be shocked if the Ravens decided to bring back Scott. He isn't the same linebacker that left Baltimore after the 2008 season. Scott's diminishing skills caused the Jets to take him off the field on passing downs. The addition of Scott would only slow down the Ravens.