AFC North: contracts

Expected first-round contracts

May, 1, 2009

Posted by's James Walker

Now that all 32 teams selected its rookies for the 2009 season, it's time to begin shifting more focus to the business side.

First-round contracts can be expensive but relatively easy to predict, because most deals are slotted by draft position with an incremental, annual raise.

With that in mind, here is approximately what AFC North first-rounders are scheduled to make, based on the 2008 class:

What's Your Rookie Worth?
Team Pick Player 2008 Pick Contract
Cincinnati No. 6 OT Andre Smith LB Vernon Gholston 5 years, $50M
Cleveland No. 21 C Alex Mack OT Sam Baker 5 years, $13M
Baltimore No. 23 OT Michael Oher RB Rashard Mendenhall 5 years, $12.55M
Pittsburgh No. 32 DL Evander Hood *S Kenny Phillips 5 years, $7.34M
*Phillips was the final pick, No. 31, in the first round because the New England Patriots were penalized a first-rounder for "Spygate" in 2008.

AFC North franchise tag notes

February, 19, 2009

Posted by's James Walker

The 4 p.m. ET deadline has officially passed for NFL teams to designate franchise players for the 2009 season. Three teams in the AFC North used the tag this year, which included an interesting move and non-move in the final hours on Thursday.

The non-move involved the Cleveland Browns and their reluctance to put a franchise or transition tag on starting safety Sean Jones, who has 14 interceptions for Cleveland over the past three seasons. Jones had a down year in 2008 but has been one of the team's best defensive players. Yet Cleveland could be looking for a new safety for next year.

The last-minute move came from the Pittsburgh Steelers, who put the franchise tag on Max Starks, according to ESPN's John Clayton. Starks, who began last season second string but finished strong as a starter, will be paid $8.451 million this season unless Pittsburgh negotiates a long-term deal.

For Pittsburgh, this likely means the end of its run with Marvel Smith. The longtime tackle was replaced by Starks during the team's Super Bowl run and is coming off a back injury.

The makeup of the Steelers' offensive line remains a mystery for 2009, but it appears the team has more than eight million reasons to count on Starks to man one of the tackle positions.

The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals used their franchise tags on defensive end/outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and kicker Shayne Graham, respectively.