Thursday, May 3, 2012
Wake-up: Could Bengals cut Clements?
By Jamison Hensley
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Bengals cornerback Nate Clements could be a candidate to get cut June 1 after the team drafted Dre Kirkpatrick in the first round, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy.
Clements is in the last year of his contract and has a cap number of $5.5 million this season ($4.3 million base, $1 million prorated bonus and $200,000 reporting bonus). In addition to drafting Kirkpatrick, the Bengals signed three cornerbacks (Adam Jones, Terence Newman and Jason Allen) in free agency.
Hensley's slant: I still see Clements with the Bengals this season. It doesn't look good that the Bengals used a first-round pick on a cornerback and signed all those veterans in free agency. But it's unknown whether Leon Hall (Achilles) will be ready to start the season and Clements is better than Jones, Newman and Allen. Head coach Marvin Lewis values Clements' leadership and the Bengals don't need to unload any contracts.
BROWNS: Linebacker Scott Fujita, who was suspended three games by the NFL for his participation in the Saints' bounty system, remains in the team's plans for 2012, according to head coach Pat Shurmur. In a statement issued by the Browns, Shurmur called Fujita "a valued member" of the Browns and said the team looked forward "to his participation in our offseason program and training camp." According to WKNR radio in Cleveland, Chris Gocong is expected to move to Fujita’s strongside spot and rookie fourth-round pick James-Michael Johnson could compete with Kaluka Maiava for the weakside job. In other news, the Browns were awarded punter Spencer Lanning off waivers from Jacksonville. An undrafted rookie last season, he was cut by the Bears before the season and signed with the Jaguars this offseason. Hensley's slant: Fujita is in the final year of his contract, so the Browns have to think about the future of that position. Maiava has the edge to win the job this season, but Johnson has a better shot at being the long-term answer at outside linebacker.
RAVENS: Second-round draft pick Kelechi Osemele primarily played left tackle at Iowa State, but he's focused on winning the spot at left guard. The Ravens currently have Jah Reid penciled in that spot. “I know there is a spot open," Osemele told the team's official website, "and honestly my goal is to come in there and try to take it." Hensley's slant: Every team in the division -- the Browns, Bengals and Steelers -- improved their offensive line either in free agency or the draft. The Ravens are taking a step back at left guard. They're going from a Pro Bowl player in Ben Grubbs to a converted tackle (either Osemele or Reid). Baltimore tried to fill that spot in free agency but it was unable to lure Evan Mathis away from the Eagles.
STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette points out that rookies have a history of starting on the Steelers' offensive line, such as Alan Faneca, Kendall Simmons, Marvel Smith, Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert. His projection on how the Steelers' starting line will look like: LT Mike Adams, LG Willie Colon, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG David DeCastro and RT Marcus Gilbert. In other news, the Steelers released two players from their offseason roster -- running back Chad Spann and cornerback Antonio Smith. Hensley's slant: The biggest concern is whether Colon can hold up for an entire season after being limited to one game over the past two years. The Steelers already gave Colon $3.8 million upfront when they restructured his contract, so they need to play him. Ramon Foster, a restricted free agent, would be the top backup at guard.