AFC North: Aaron Maybin

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the top under-the-radar move made by each AFC North team thus far this offseason:

Baltimore Ravens. Marcus Spears, defensive end. When it comes to Baltimore's defensive line, the big-name signing in free agency was Chris Canty. The addition of Spears didn't generate much buzz because he never reached expectations of a first-round pick with the Cowboys and ended his time in Dallas as a backup. But Spears will make a significant contribution to the Ravens' run defense, which finished No. 20 in the NFL last season. Spears will be asked to handle the unforgiving job of taking on double-teams, which allows Haloti Ngata and the inside linebackers to be more effective. The Ravens' defensive line won't wear down as it did last season, because Spears gives Baltimore experienced depth.

Cincinnati Bengals. Aaron Maybin, linebacker. Some may be asking: When did Maybin join the Bengals? That's the definition of being under the radar. Technically, Maybin wasn't signed during the free-agency period. He was added in late January. Maybin was a first-round bust in Buffalo, but the Bengals have had success with reclamation projects (see safety Reggie Nelson). He is also still young; he turns 25 on Saturday. Maybin, who has six sacks in 48 career games, will get a shot to redeem himself in Cincinnati. The Bengals have a need at outside linebacker after the team let Manny Lawson sign with the Bills and didn't re-sign Thomas Howard (which could still happen down the road). If the Bengals don't address the linebacker position in the draft, Maybin will compete against Emmanuel Lamur, Dontay Moch and Vincent Rey for a starting job.

Cleveland Browns. Quentin Groves, linebacker. The addition of Groves got lost in the Browns' fast start in free agency, when they signed linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant. Although Groves won't be a starter like Kruger or Bryant, he will serve an important role behind the scenes. Groves will help in the Browns' transition to Ray Horton's 3-4 defense after playing under him last season in Arizona. It was obvious that Groves clicked with Horton. A 2008 second-round pick by the Jaguars, Groves struggled in his two years in Jacksonville and two years in Oakland. In his first season with Horton, Groves recorded career highs in tackles (46) and sacks (four). He will try to repeat that success for the Browns.

Pittsburgh Steelers. Larry Foote, linebacker. All of the Steelers' moves fall into the under-the-radar category because they don't have the salary-cap room to make any other kind. And, by most standards, Foote is an under-the-radar type player. Outside of those Terrible Towel-waving fans, few knew the leading tackler for the NFL's top-ranked defense was Foote. It was key for the Steelers to re-sign Foote a few hours before he was set to hit the free-agent market. There was speculation he was headed for Arizona. The Steelers didn't miss longtime starter James Farrior in 2012 because of Foote's surprisingly strong season. In 16 starts, Foote finished with a career-high 113 tackles and tied a career best with four sacks.
The Bengals continued their offseason hobby of picking up former first-round picks, adding linebacker Aaron Maybin on Friday.

Maybin has been a first-round bust who has not lived up to the expectations of being the 11th overall pick by the Bills in 2009. In 48 games, he has totaled 36 tackles, six sacks and five forced fumbles.

He showed promise in 2011, his first season with the Jets, when he had six sacks and four forced fumbles. But the Jets cut him in November after Maybin had one tackle and no sacks in eight games.

There's no risk involved in the Bengals signing Maybin. The Bengals have a need for linebackers with two outside ones (Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson) becoming unrestricted free agents.

This falls in line with what Cincinnati did last season. The Bengals signed six former first-round picks: cornerbacks Adam Jones and Jason Allen, safety Reggie Nelson, defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson and defensive end Derrick Harvey.

Of that group, only Jones and Nelson became impact players. Based on Maybin's history, I suspect he'll follow the path of Harvey, who failed to make the regular-season roster.

Browns should pursue Aaron Maybin

August, 16, 2011
Since I'm big on giving free advice lately, here is another tip for the division: The Cleveland Browns should pursue free-agent linebacker Aaron Maybin.

The Buffalo Bills released the 2009 first-round pick on Monday. Maybin is one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory. He recorded just 24 tackles and zero sacks in two seasons.

But that doesn't mean the Browns shouldn't take a flier on the 23-year-old. Cleveland desperately needs depth at outside linebacker behind starters Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong. Maybin also had the ability to rush the passer in college, which is another element the Browns could use.

Cleveland defensive coordinator Dick Jauron was the head coach in Buffalo when the Bills drafted Maybin No. 11 overall two years ago. Jauron has familiarity with Maybin. Perhaps the veteran coach can get something (anything?) out of the draft bust.

The Browns are building through the draft but this would be another low-risk move for a young player. Cleveland doesn't have anything to lose. I think it's worth a shot.

Inside the AFC North

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's James Walker

There's a lot to discuss in the AFC North with the NFL draft approaching on Saturday.

Here are some notes and observations this week within the division:

  • Boldin
    The recent declaration that the Arizona Cardinals are willing to trade receiver Anquan Boldin could impact the market for Cleveland Browns receiver Braylon Edwards. The Browns, as we hear it, are definitely open to moving Edwards this week but want a king's ransom, which includes multiple picks and possibly a player thrown in for good measure. That is a lot for a receiver coming off a down year. But with Boldin now in the mix, a team like the New York Giants or Philadelphia Eagles may shift their attention to Arizona if the asking price becomes more reasonable. Both Boldin and Edwards should be near the same range as far as potential compensation, most likely with a price tag of a first- and third-round pick.
  • Harrison
    Some league insiders we've talked to in the past week are scratching their heads as to how the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off a massive, $51.175 million extension with Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison without a ton of cap space available this offseason. As of Monday, the breakdown of the deal hasn't been reported. But chances are there were some creative structuring to make it work under the cap. There's also the possibility that other Steelers were asked to restructure their deals behind closed doors to create some wiggle room.
  • The Baltimore Ravens recently brought in an interesting list of prospects for visits. Players such as Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin, Ohio State running back Chris Wells and Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew are all players projected to go in the top 20 picks. The Ravens own the No. 26 overall pick in the first round, which makes you wonder if they're considering moving up in the draft later this week.
  • This year's NFL draft for the Cincinnati Bengals will be the most important of the coach Marvin Lewis era. The team has 11 picks, which gives them tremendous flexibility and value to move up and down the draft board as they please to grab the players they covet. Recently we put the Bengals on sleeper watch for 2009, in part, because they have a ton of draft picks and the healthy return of quarterback Carson Palmer. It is no secret that Cincinnati's scouting has been hit or miss for a long time. But few teams have a better opportunity to dramatically improve its roster this weekend than the Bengals.