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Monday, July 27, 2009
Are Oher and Smith next?

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

It was a solid weekend in the AFC North for first-round draft picks as Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Evander Hood both agreed to five-year deals.

Rookie Check-up
As of Monday, here is the current list of unsigned rookies in the AFC North:
Team Player Pos. Round
Baltimore Michael Oher RT 1
Cincinnati Andre Smith RT 1
Cincinnati Rey Maualuga LB 2
Cincinnati Michael Johnson DE 3
Cincinnati Chase Coffman TE 3
Cleveland Brian Robiskie WR 2
Cleveland Mohamed Massaquoi WR 2

But that still leaves two highly-touted, first rounders unsigned in Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens and Andre Smith of the Cincinnati Bengals. Both right tackles are expected to start in Week 1 for their respective teams and would hurt themselves and the club with rookie holdouts.

With the Ravens having rookies report today and their first practice on Tuesday, there is more urgency right now in Baltimore. Oher, the No. 23 overall pick, should have an easier contract to put together than Smith and already said he doesn't intend to miss time. By no means does that guarantee anything. But with Mack, the No. 21 pick, already signed the Ravens at least have solid parameters to work out a deal with Oher.

Smith's situation could be more troublesome. In fact most league observers would be surprised if the No. 6 overall pick makes it to training camp on time by Friday's report date or the first practice on Saturday.

Only two rookies in the top 10 have reached deals as of Monday morning: Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. And both are quarterbacks which makes it difficult for other rookies, because the premium of the position often inflates the total value of the contract.

Overall, expect a flurry of rookie deals to be completed as a majority of NFL teams open training camp this week. But it will be interesting to see if Oher or Smith will be among the first-year players to sign on time.