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Saturday, April 4, 2009
Walker's Weekend Mailbag

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Let's see what's on the mind of AFC North readers.

Louie from Oakland writes: For a while, I've been having a gut feeling that Ocho Cinco would go to the Raiders since being unhappy in Cincinnati....Do you think there is any real chance a trade for him might be possible this off-season?

James Walker: Louie, the Bengals could certainly trade Chad Ocho Cinco if they want to take a $4.87 million salary-cap hit and likely not get equal value in return. That is the quandary the Bengals face. Ocho Cinco is a five-time Pro Bowler coming off a down year. Cincinnati may feel its best to keep him and hope he has a bounce-back season.


Dave from Oak Hillm W. Va., writes: James, Do you think the Steelers inability so far to sign James Harrison to a long term contract extension is a bad sign? Also what player do you think the team is most likely to go for in the first round on draft day.

James Walker: Not at all, Dave. I would be more worried if talks broke off and/or Harrison was a no-show for the team's offseason program. Neither is the case. Both sides have been very professional and cordial during this process. They got started early because they knew it wasn't going to be easy. Harrison had a tremendous year, was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, yet the Steelers don't normally pay players over 30. It's a difficult negotiation, but both sides will eventually come to an agreement.


Anthony from Chicago writes: Hey James, I was just looking around the schedules of the AFC North teams and was wondering if you also think that the AFC North can send 3 teams to the playoffs, just because they play the two weakest divisions, and the out of division matchups should help the weaker teams.

James Walker: Getting three teams into the postseason would be asking a lot, Anthony. The NFC East was the strongest division in the NFL last year and had four teams with at least eight victories. Only two (New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles) made the playoffs. I don't see it happening in the AFC North next season.


Mike from Huntington Beach, Calif., writes: James - as a lifetime Steelers fan last year was magical and particularly surprising given the number of steeler injuries and the Brady injury opening the door for the AFC. Given the key starters stay healthy in 09, do you see the Steelers making another deep playoff run, and do you think the Ravens have the same success?

James Walker: Every year is a different year and a different journey, Mike. The Steelers will be one of the favorites entering next season. They kept the original group together to see if they can make another title run, and I think they have as good shot. Baltimore, which should add a quality draft, looks like a contender as well, health permitting. But it's really too early to project these types of things.


Neal from Baltimore writes: With the Bengals not being able to sign Tahi, what are the chances they will go after the Ravens' free agent, Lorenzo Neal?

James Walker: Neal would be more in play for a return to Baltimore. He fit in well there for one year. Cincinnati could still look for a suitable fullback in the draft. They are pretty easy to find in the middle rounds.


Blackbirdman writes: James, thanx for the informative blog. I saw the Ravens just signed Bauman as the 3 QB. Does this mean Boller is done as Raven?

James Walker: Yes, Kyle Boller's tenure with Baltimore is over. He was considered the long-term solution and didn't work out, so when the team found Joe Flacco the writing was on the wall. Boller could land somewhere next season, but he has yet to sign with a team as an unrestricted free agent.


Dave from Los Angeles writes: Hey, James. Thanks for all the great work. Wanted to get your thoughts on the Bengals' DT tandem of Domata Peko and Pat Sims. If the #6 pick rolls around, and Curry, Jason Smith and Monroe are off the board, how about throwing BJ Raji into that DT rotation?

James Walker: I like your train of thought, Dave. Everyone knows the Bengals need help on the offensive line. But the two best offensive tackles (Smith, Monroe) could be gone. So instead of reaching with Mississippi tackle Michael Oher or taking a risk with Alabama's Andre Smith, it may be better to take the best defensive player on their board, which could be Raji.  But there was a report this week stating Raji recently failed a drug test which, if true, could hurt his stock