AFC North: Brandon Joiner

The Cincinnati Bengals got down to the league limit of 75 players with six moves on Tuesday. The biggest one was putting rookie fourth-round pick Sean Porter (shoulder) on injured reserve. He was slated to back up James Harrison and play special teams.

Cincinnati also waived offensive linemen Otis Hudson and Jason Weaver. Linebacker Brandon Joiner, was injury waived and would move to the team's injured reserve list if he isn't claimed on waivers. Joiner, who went undrafted last season, spent his rookie year in jail for his role in a 2007 robbery.

Fullback Chris Pressley (knee) and reserve quarterback Zac Robinson (elbow) were placed on the PUP list and can practice after Week 6.
While the other teams in the AFC North are preparing for minicamps next week, the Cleveland Browns have been busy on and off the field during their workouts this week. The Browns signed two players (see below) and welcomed guard Jason Pinkston back to the practice field after a blood clot cut short last season for him. Let's see how the other division teams are faring in today's wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Everything is going well with left tackle Bryant McKinnie, according to The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston. He's hearing word that McKinnie has been attending the team's offseason conditioning workout sessions and his weight is down. Preston thinks there are other concerns with the offensive line. "The Ravens need to work on timing issues, especially in the middle of the offensive line with new center Gino Gradkowski and guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele," Preston wrote. "If Gradkowski performs well, the Ravens' offensive line could be one of the strong in the conference -- providing McKinnie keeps working hard."

BENGALS: Rookie linebacker Brandon Joiner, who recently served eight months of a three-year sentence for aggravated robbery, has an unlikely supporter -- Arkansas governor Mike Beebe. Joiner and Beebe both attended Arkansas State. "He's a good guy. This is the kind of story you like to talk about," Beebe told the team's official website. "Kids mess up. They do foolish things. We probably have all done stupid things when we're young. He went over the line. He did what he had to do. He paid his dues. He's a class guy."

Meanwhile, a warrant has been issued for the arrest of former Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson in South Florida. A circuit judge issued a warrant May 7 against Johnson for failing to report to his probation officer. Johnson received a year of probation last September after pleading no contest to a domestic violence charge involving his former wife, reality TV star Evelyn Lozada.

STEELERS: The Steelers signed their first draft pick from this year's class, reaching a deal with safety Shamarko Thomas. He was the first of two fourth-round picks for Pittsburgh. The Steelers traded next year's third-round pick to the Browns so they could draft Thomas. At Syracuse, Thomas started 39 games, recording 263 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. The Steelers, who have less than $2 million in salary-cap room, won't be able to sign all nine of their draft picks this month. Pittsburgh gains an additional $5.5 million next month because it designated guard Willie Colon a June 1 cut.

BROWNS: The Browns signed quarterback Brian Hoyer and running back Brandon Jackson, according to The Plain Dealer. Both are likely competing for backup jobs. Hoyer signed a two-year deal with his hometown team after stops in New England, Pittsburgh and Arizona. Hoyer, 27, was released by the Cardinals five days ago. Jackson, who is primarily a third-down back, signed a one-year deal to return to Cleveland. Both deals have yet to be announced by the Browns. I will provide my thoughts on the addition of Hoyer later this morning.
Let's take a look at what's happening around the division in the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata told USA Today that his injured left knee was feeling better. It was good sign that he was seen jogging through the team's New Orleans hotel Monday, less than 24 hours after he was unable to finish the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, safety Bernard Pollard played the majority of the season with six cracked ribs, according to The Baltimore Sun. "It's tough dealing with pain," Pollard said. "For us as football players, we know we're going to go through it."

BENGALS: Rookie linebacker Brandon Joiner has been activated off the reserve-did not report list after completing a prison term. The Bengals signed Joiner out of Arkansas State as an undrafted free agent last year, knowing he would be going to prison in Texas over a robbery that led to his indictment in 2008. He was placed on a reserve list and missed all of last season while completing his sentence. Joiner is expected to compete at strong-side linebacker.

STEELERS: The team placed running back Chris Rainey on waivers on Monday, according to Steelers Digest. The Steelers announced it was parting ways with Rainey on Jan. 10, only hours after his second arrest for a domestic violence incident. But Pittsburgh had to wait until after the Super Bowl to officially waive a player. Rainey has since pleaded no contest to a charge of disorderly conduct and paid nearly $500 in fines and court costs.

BROWNS: The Ravens won their second Super Bowl since relocating from Cleveland, and the Browns have yet to win a playoff game since rejoining the league in 1999. While this only adds to the sting, Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown believes Browns fans have to move on. "That's old news now," Brown told "Baltimore has proven themselves on the football field. We can't take that away. Art did not make the correct move in my opinion, at the time. It hurt the people, but now it's time to get over it."
Like every morning in the AFC North blog, here's your wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones thinks his younger brother, Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, will play in the AFC Championship Game, but he hasn't gotten any inside information from him. Chandler Jones, who is second on New England with six sacks, was limited in practice Wednesday with an ankle injury. “He's not telling me anything,” Arthur Jones told The Baltimore Sun. “I think he’s going to be out there. He’s a hard worker, and I know he’s getting treatment on it hard.”

BENGALS: Bengals undrafted rookie linebacker Brandon Joiner was released Tuesday after serving nearly eight months of a three-year prison sentence, according to the Killeen (Texas) Daily Herald. Joiner, whose rights were retained by the Bengals, was indicted in May on two counts of aggravated robbery and one charge of felony drug possession. “The days just seemed like they slowed down. I swear they were 27-hour days,” Joiner said. “Getting up at 1 o’clock in the morning, staying in the cage until 5, 6 o’clock in the morning, being on the bus at seven. Then getting there (to a new unit), eating four peanut butter sandwiches a day, only one hot meal, no rec, no TV in some dorms. It’s been hectic, but just knowing I was coming home made it all worthwhile.”

STEELERS: The Steelers are open to drafting a quarterback earlier than the late rounds to provide a younger backup to Ben Roethlisberger, who missed three games this season with a sprained shoulder and dislocated rib. "We won't close the door on any position in any round," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. "We can't." This past season, the Steelers went with Charlie Batch, 38, and Byron Leftwich, 33, as their backup quarterbacks.

BROWNS: The Browns will interview Redskins defensive-backs coach Raheem Morris for their defensive coordinator position, a source told The Plain Dealer. Morris was the head coach of the Buccaneers from 2009 to 2011, going 17-31 in his three seasons there. Under Morris, a banged-up Redskins secondary played a factor in Washington finishing 30th in pass defense. The Browns are expected to announce Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator Thursday.
The biggest black mark in a feel-good year for the Cincinnati Bengals has been their frequent run-ins with the law.

Since June of last year, the Bengals are tied with the Detroit Lions for the second-most arrests with five, according to the San Diego Tribune's NFL arrests database. The Minnesota Vikings took the league lead with six when fullback Jerome Felton was arrested over the weekend for drunk driving.

Of the five players who were arrested, only two remain with the Bengals: linebacker Rey Maualuga and cornerback Adam Jones. Two played for the team last season after their arrests (running back Cedric Benson and wide receiver Jerome Simpson) and are no longer with the team. And, as the Cincinnati Enquirer pointed out, one wasn't tendered a contract after his arrest (safety Marvin White).

The Bengals made headlines last month when they decided to retain the rights of undrafted linebacker Brandon Joiner after he was sentenced to three years in prison.

Over the past 12 months, 20 teams have had at least one player arrested. The Steelers have had one (wide receiver Hines Ward) while the Ravens and Browns have had none.
There are so many positives surrounding the Bengals' organization these days. They're coming off a surprising playoff season. They are returning two young offensive stars in A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. And they're having one of the best offseasons of any team in the league.

Then, like so many times over the past year, the franchise's name is getting put in the headline with another player in legal trouble. Bengals undrafted rookie Brandon Joiner was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison on charges stemming from a 2007 incident that occurred when he was playing at Texas A&M, according to the Bryan-College Station Eagle.

Technically, Joiner didn't get in trouble while being a member of the Bengals. That still doesn't answer the bigger question: Why do the Bengals get involved with such players? Why are they bringing in a player with this type of history? I understand that football players are hardly choir boys, but Joiner was indicted in January 2008 for robbing a drug dealer at gunpoint.

The Bengals should be the last team taking a chance on Joiner. They've had four players get in trouble with the law over the past 10 months: running back Cedric Benson, cornerback Adam Jones, wide receiver Jerome Simpson and linebacker Rey Maualuga. Benson and Jones both had legal incidents before the Bengals signed them.

In other news, the Bengals signed first-round pick Kevin Zeitler, the team announced. Of course, this positive move is overshadowed by another player in a courtroom.

*UPDATE: The Bengals plan to keep Joiner on their offseason roster. Here's the official statement:

"Though it is unlikely he will have any chance to play this season, his contract extends beyond 2012, and the Club is choosing to retain his NFL rights at this time. Brandon must serve a sentence for a crime he was convicted of in 2007 -- when he was 18. But his positive actions during the past five years, including significant community service work, graduation from Arkansas State University and an unblemished subsequent behavior record, have generated a group of active supporters that includes Mike Beebe, the Governor of Arkansas, and Hugh Freeze, Brandon's head coach at Arkansas State and now head coach at Mississippi. In kind, the Bengals support Brandon's future opportunity for a career in the NFL."