Thursday, February 18, 2010
AFC North mailbag
By James Walker
Let's answer some questions on all four AFC North teams.
Shawn Davis from Manassas, Va., writes: James, are there any shutdown corners in the free-agent market that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to go after?
James Walker: No one unrestricted really catches my eye, Shawn. Most "shutdown" -- i.e. elite -- corners never hit the free-agent market, because they're such a rare commodity. But last month I mentioned an intriguing trade scenario involving San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie that I think the Steelers should explore. He's in the final year of his rookie contract at a relatively affordable salary. The Chargers reportedly are interested in getting something for Cromartie before he bolts (no pun intended), and Cromartie will be hungry to have a great 2010 season while in a contract year. It could be a win-win for both teams if the asking price is reasonable.
Mattieu from Lyon, France, wants my impressions of Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb and if he will be ready for the season opener.
Walker: Webb is a good young prospect who showed starting potential towards the end of last season, Mattieu. The Ravens are really high on him. The question is how strong can he return next season from major knee surgery? It typically takes nine months to recover from an ACL injury, and Webb injured his knee in late December. So that will probably take Webb, without any complications or setbacks, right up until September's season opener. He should miss training camp or be very limited during the summer. All of this will impact Webb's ability to perform, especially early in the 2010 season.
Mike from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Do you think the Cleveland Browns have any chance of getting Julius Peppers?
Walker: The Browns are not the favorites, Mike. But as ESPN's Chris Mortensen recently pointed out, Cleveland has the money to spend and the right scheme (3-4 defense). So any team with that combination at least has a puncher's chance. Peppers at this point of his career would prefer to play for a contender. But money could supersede that. It's different for each player.
Sean McMann from Pittsburgh, Pa., is curious if the Cincinnati Bengals will take at free-agent DE/OLB Aaron Kampman?
Walker: Sean, despite recent injuries, Kampman is a good player and may prefer to return to a 4-3 defense, which Cincinnati has. But Kampman has no ties to the Bengals or their coaching staff. So I don't see him coming to Cincinnati unless it's willing to spend the most money. History says that probably won't be the case.