AFC North: AFC North Wake-up Call

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

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said the team isn't close to signing free-agent wide receiver Braylon Edwards, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

A move wouldn't happen until next month because Edwards is still rehabbing his knee. He is expected to be ready for training camp.

“We’re pretty full with players and we’ll keep seeing if there are guys who are released who can help us and make us competitive,” Lewis said. “We want to strike the balance with the young players too. I don’t want to fill up our 90 spots with all old players. We’ve got to have some young guys to help supplement the draft picks and so at the end of the day you have an opportunity of guys trending up. We don’t want to have too many guys on the other side of their careers.”

Lewis doesn't think Edwards would disrupt chemistry because the receivers room belongs to A.J. Green, adding "it's his offensive football team and he has come back with that attitude."

Hensley's slant: The Bengals have the cap room to take a chance on Edwards. Cincinnati needs a No. 2 wide receiver and a target with experience. No wide receiver on the team has more than 65 career receptions. Edwards has 341 catches (but just 15 last season) and has averaged 15.6 yards per reception for his seven-year career.

BROWNS: Phil Taylor's agent said the defensive tackle is remaining positive while awaiting results of the MRI. Taylor injured his pectoral muscle Thursday while lifting weights. "Phil is staying positive. He's got a great attitude," Peter Schaffer told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He'll either be 100 percent [when the results come in] or if he needs surgery, he'll come back 100 percent. Things happen. Phil is going to be fine either way. If he misses time, he'll come back strong." Hensley's slant: The surprise contributor of the 2012 draft could be defensive tackle Billy Winn, a sixth-round pick out of Boise State. He slid in the draft because of questionable work ethic, but his skills could make him the top candidate to fill in for Taylor.

RAVENS: Fellow cornerback Lardarius Webb has high expectations for Jimmy Smith, last year's first-round pick. Smith's rookie season was thrown off course after he basically missed the first five games of the season with an ankle injury.“He can make a huge step,” Webb told the team's official website. “With his talent, his knowledge, I think he’s going to be a Pro Bowl corner coming up next year.” Hensley's slant: It was only last month when Webb said he wanted to be better than Darrelle Revis, so he obviously likes to think big. But as I said at that time, Smith has a chance to be better than Webb this season. Smith has the size and speed to be a shutdown cornerback.

STEELERS: Ben Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he majored in education at Miami (Ohio) because he wanted to teach and coach. He received his degree last weekend. “I still may want to coach, still like to be a coach," he told the paper. "I wouldn’t rule teaching out, but I’d say it’s unlikely.’’ As the Post-Gazette pointed out, Roethlisberger would have to serve as a student-teacher if he wanted to teach. Hensley's slant: Just imagine the pressure on the quarterback for the team Roethlisberger would be coaching. You see the Super Bowl rings when Roethlisberger is holding the play-calling sheet, and you know you can't leave the game unless you have two or three broken bones. Those are some high standards to meet.
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

Head coach Pat Shurmur said the Browns are "open to anything" when asked about trading up to the Rams' No. 2 spot.

"Yeah, we’re willing [to trade]," Shurmur said Thursday at the NFL combine, via the Akron Beacon Journal. "With two first-round picks, we have flexibility. We can just stand pat and take two really fine players [in the first round], guys that we would hope to be starters for us. Having two first-round picks, you have flexibility if you want to do something.”

The Browns would presumably trade up from fourth overall to select Robert Griffin III. The team is scheduled to meet with the Baylor quarterback tonight.

“We try to find out as much as we can about the player,” Shurmur said. “How smart he is, how well he might learn, how he might react to adversity.”

Browns general manager Tom Heckert will miss the combine with an illness, which is not considered serious, a source told the Plain Dealer of Cleveland. He will participate in some player interviews via Skype.

Hensley's slant: I believe if the Browns want to move up to draft RG3, the Rams would be willing to make that trade because they would only fall back to the fourth overall pick. The top wide receiver (Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon) or offensive tackle (USC's Matt Kalil) will be available at No. 4 for St. Louis, which needs help at both positions. If the Browns are sold on RG3 as their franchise quarterback, this trade would be a win-win for both teams.

BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy doesn't think it makes sense for the Bengals to sign Mike Wallace to an offer sheet if the Steelers wide receiver is given a first-round tender. Some of his reasons are: Wallace doesn't fit Jay Gruden's offense, the Bengals need a possession receiver instead of a speedy one and the team loves to hang onto draft picks. "Plus Andy Dalton is not the type of quarterback where you want to be consistently taking deep shots downfield," Reedy wrote. Hensley's slant: Maybe it's me but you adjust your offense if you get a chance at Wallace and have a huge amount of salary-cap room to make that move. Yes, the Bengals would get more value with a receiver like Robert Meachem or Mario Manningham. But you really don't have to worry about value when you're $60 million under the cap. You get the best player. Still, the likelihood of the Bengals extending an offer sheet to Wallace and giving up a first-round pick isn't great because the Bengals historically don't go after high-priced players.

RAVENS: The Ravens are scheduled to meet with the agents for quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice at the NFL combine, according to the Carroll County Times. Team officials will sit down with Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, on Saturday afternoon and meet with Rice's agent, Todd France, this week. “With Joe, we’re just going to sit down and start grinding out a contract and terms,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said during the Ravens' season-ending news conference. “I think he’s going to be extremely successful, I think he’s going to have rings. He’s got 10 years of his prime to show it. We believe in him. We believe he is getting stronger mentally and smarter with the ball.” Hensley's slant: These are simply introductory meetings, so there's nothing to get excited about. I see the Ravens making Rice play under the franchise tag for this season and signing Flacco to a contract extension right before the start of training camp. It would be shocking if either long-term deal gets done before the start of free agency.

STEELERS: General manager Kevin Colbert told Pittsburgh reporters at the NFL combine (via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) that the Steelers want to re-sign veteran backup quarterbacks Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich. Batch was the primary backup to Ben Roethlisberger after Leftwich went down with a season-ending arm injury in the preseason. Colbert, though, said he expects reserve quarterback Dennis Dixon to go elsewhere when he hits free agency on March 13. "I don't think the league has seen the best of Dennis Dixon only because he's behind a great quarterback, and he's been held back by some injuries," Colbert said. Hensley's slant: As long as Leftwich stays healthy, he should get the backup job over Batch. Backup quarterback is an important job for the Steelers because Roethlisberger hasn't played a full season since 2008, missing six games the past three seasons (four due to an NFL suspension).



Sunday, 1/25