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Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Wake-up call: Browns interested LB Lawson

By Jamison Hensley

Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

The Browns are among four teams interested in Bengals free-agent linebacker Manny Lawson, according to Fox Sports and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Lawson, 27, would take the place of strongside linebacker Scott Fujita and help improve the NFL's 30th-ranked run defense. He signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Bengals last offseason.

The Raiders, Colts and Packers are the other teams who have been linked to Lawson, the 22nd overall pick of the 2006 draft.

Hensley's slant: The Bengals had one of the NFL's best run defenses in the first half of last season, so it would be a smart move to add Lawson after signing defensive end Frostee Rucker. It's believed that the Bengals originally signed Lawson to improve their pass rush, but Lawson made his biggest impact against the run.

BENGALS: Cincinnati made a "significant offer" to pass-rusher Kamerion Wimbley before he signed a five-year, $35 million deal with the Titans, a couple of sources told the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Bengals were one of five teams who expressed interest in signing him along with the Patriots, Seahawks and Packers. Wimbley would have replaced Lawson as the team's strongside linebacker. Hensley's slant: The Bengals didn't get their targeted player, but this once again shows that the team was aggressive in free agency. Wimbley would have been an upgrade over Lawson because of his ability to get to the quarterback. Cincinnati can always turn to its fallback option in Lawson.

RAVENS: Patriots free-agent defensive end Mark Anderson made a visit to the Ravens on Tuesday, league sources told the Baltimore Sun. Anderson, 28, recorded 10 sacks and forced two fumbles last season as an edge rusher for the Patriots. He has previously visited the Tennessee Titans (who are out of the running after signing Wimbley) and Miami Dolphins and will meet with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday. Hensley's slant: Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has always said a team can't have enough pass-rushers. Anderson, though, could serve a dual purpose for Baltimore. He could replace outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, who signed with the San Diego Chargers in free agency.

STEELERS: Hines Ward sought counsel from former Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis before he decided to retire. "He just asked me about retirement and other teams," Bettis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "And I just told him that his true value is always having a Steeler helmet attached to him, and, when you leave, you lose some of that mystique. For a guy who's played his entire career in Pittsburgh, I just thought it would be a shame if he put another helmet on for someone else for a year or two." Hensley's slant: If anyone knows how to go out in style, it would be Bettis. He retired a Steelers after winning the Super Bowl in February 2006 in his hometown of Detroit. As the Post-Gazette described it, this was the perfect exit. But Ward's goodbye proved to be equally as touching.