Before we get into Saturday’s playoff action, let’s dig into the AFC North mailbag.
Jim from central Ohio wants to know if Romeo Crennel is still on the books with the Cleveland Browns since he was hired by the Kansas City Chiefs as defensive coordinator.
James Walker: Jim, Crennel still gets paid by Browns. Next year whatever the Chiefs are paying annually is subtracted from what Cleveland owes Crennel. For instance, if Crennel is owed $3 million per season and the Chiefs are paying $500,000, the Browns will pay Crennel $2.5 million next season to make up the difference.
Nate from Warren, Ohio wants to know which potential free agents for the Browns could stay with the team next year.
Walker: With new team president Mike Holmgren taking over, you’re not completely sure which players he will fall in love with after watching film of last season. But I would assume running backs Jerome Harrison and Lawrence Vickers are two free agents who could impress "The Big Show." Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was injured but he's also a good player Holmgren may like. I think free-agent safeties Brodney Pool and Abram Elam are likely gone.
Kenny M, from Bluefield, West Virginia writes: Drafting Jerome Simpson over DeSean Jackson is really coming back to haunt the Cincinnati Bengals. The organization can try to spin this decision any way they want to...they simply blew it.
Walker: Yes, the Bengals blew it. But every team misses on draft picks. That's life in the NFL. I will say there were only two times since covering the NFL when I instantly said to myself "This team just made a huge mistake." The Bengals taking Simpson over Jackson was one, and Cleveland trading with the Baltimore Ravens so they can select Haloti Ngata was the other. I was right on both accounts.
Casey B. from Cincinnati, Ohio wants to know if the Bengals will make a play for Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall in free agency.
Walker: The Bengals traditionally are not big spenders in free agency, Casey. So I don't see them making a run at Marshall, who comes with a heavy price tag and some baggage. Also, Cincinnati invested a good amount in Laveranues Coles last year for the same position. So I think the draft will be the main focus for the Bengals and a lot of teams. There are too many new rules in place with free agency during the uncapped year.
Nima from San Francisco, CA writes: Can you please write something about how unfair the league's contract policies are to players?
Walker: My take is NFL contracts heavily favor the team more than any other league, because deals are not guaranteed. If a player underperforms and a team wants to shred the deal tomorrow, it can. These are cases when teams do not honor contracts. Yet, when a player outperforms his deal and wants a raise, teams can look the other way and say "Honor your contract." It’s very one-sided. But that's the NFL landscape, and teams and players have to work within that framework. I would caution to bash a player when he wants a raise, because there is a flipside (getting released) that the general public ignores.
Mike Matthews from Oceanport, NJ wants to know why the Baltimore Ravens aren't blitzing more.
Walker: I disagree, Mike. I thought Baltimore's pressure packages worked well against the New England Patriots last week. The Ravens had three sacks and forced Tom Brady to make some quick, ill-advised throws at other times. Once the Ravens got the 24-0 lead, maybe they pulled back some and dropped more players into coverage. But I don't have a problem with that in an effort to hold a lead.