AFC North: David Patten

Browns: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

Biggest surprise: The Browns released some veterans they hoped would contribute more to the team this year in receiver David Patten and cornerback Corey Ivy. Both signed in Cleveland as free agents to provide veteran stability, but neither played well enough in training camp or the preseason. Ivy was one of the extra cornerbacks in Cleveland’s sub packages, and now the team needs to find someone else to fill that role before next week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Browns also made enough cuts to leave one roster spot available, which means they’re up to something in the coming days.

No-brainers: Reports began to circulate in the past 24 hours that starting tailback Jamal Lewis would be released Saturday by the Browns. But that proved to be nothing more than a rumor. The Browns have no proven talent behind Lewis and would have gone into the season with a rookie sixth-round pick -- James Davis -- as their starting running back. Plus, the Browns paid Lewis a sizable roster bonus this offseason and would have taken a significant cap hit as a result. Piecing it all together, it made the most sense for Cleveland to keep Lewis.

What’s next: As evident by their open roster spot, the Browns should be one of the more active teams in the next 48 hours. Compared to the rest of the AFC North, Cleveland is lacking overall depth and talent at several positions. Browns head coach Eric Mangini has a penchant for acquiring his former players. So look for the Browns to experience some turnover at the bottom of their roster for veterans Mangini is familiar with.

AFC North cuts looming

September, 4, 2009

Posted by’s James Walker

This Saturday is the worst day in the NFL when it comes to job security.

It’s the time when every team in the league has to trim its final roster to 53 players.

That means each of the 32 teams will have to make some tough decisions on how to release approximately 20 players. After that, coaches and general managers also will scan the waiver wire to see what’s available to upgrade their team, making for one of the most fast-paced weekends of the summer.

With that said, here is a look at tough roster decisions for each AFC North team:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Position: Running back

Why: The Steelers already have a deep group at running back, which includes starter Willie Parker and backups Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore. But a relative unknown emerged this summer in rookie free agent Isaac Redman. With rest given to Parker and Moore over the summer, Redman has done a lot with his opportunities. He’s proven to be particularly good at scoring touchdowns within the redzone, which is something Pittsburgh has struggled with in recent years. Keeping four tailbacks active will be tough, so Redman is a candidate for the practice squad. But there are no guarantees another team won’t claim him this weekend.

Cleveland Browns

Position: Receiver

Why: The Browns entered the offseason in desperate need of wide receivers. Therefore, they brought in as many new players at the position as possible and now it’s time to make a decision. Braylon Edwards and Joshua Cribbs are safe, as well as rookie draft picks Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. After that, things get dicey. The Browns likely will keep just five receivers. Of the remaining group, Mike Furrey had the best preseason and probably played well enough to make the team. Veteran David Patten has been in and out of the lineup with injuries and is on the bubble, but my guess is Patten doesn’t make the cut. Others at the position like Paul Hubbard, Lance Leggett and rookie Jordan Norwood are expected to be released Saturday.

Cincinnati Bengals

Position: Running back

Why: In what was a weakness most of the last season, the Bengals suddenly have some quality depth at running back this season. So much is the case that the coaching staff has been mulling for weeks what to do with this group when it’s time to put together the 53-man roster. Starter Cedric Benson and rookie Bernard Scott are safe. But DeDe Dorsey and Brian Leonard are not. Both had good training camps and preseasons. It also doesn’t help that they are different styles of runners. Similar to Pittsburgh, it doesn’t appear likely the team would carry four tailbacks, likely making Dorsey or Leonard expendable.

Baltimore Ravens

Position: Kicker

Why: Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano have competed kick for kick since the spring, and Saturday’s decision will finally put an end to this competition. Most expect Hauschka to be the pick as he’s outperformed Gano in the preseason. But keep in mind the “Matt Stover factor” also looms large. The Ravens have not been afraid to admit that the longtime Raven remains on speed dial if the team’s current kicker slips up. So even if Hauschka is the choice Saturday, he can’t get comfortable.
  Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
  Derek Anderson, left, and Brady Quinn continue to battle for the starting QB job.

Posted by's James Walker

BEREA, Ohio -- It takes only one training camp session to notice who's the new boss of the Cleveland Browns.

Eric Mangini's presence already looms large in Cleveland. Whether it's the improved practice habits, the meticulous charting of plays and game situations, or the constant running of laps after mental errors, the new Browns coach has quickly placed his fingerprints all over this team heading into the 2009 season.

Cleveland is trying to bounce back from an abysmal 4-12 record last year. Most players returning from last season are coming off the worst individual performances of their careers, and part of Mangini's job is to get the best out of them as well as the new additions.

"Nobody cares what anybody did last year," Browns offensive lineman Ryan Tucker said of the team's approach.

Camp Confidential: AFC North
Bengals: Sun., Aug. 2
Steelers: Fri., Aug. 7
Browns: Mon., Aug. 17
Ravens: Sat., Aug. 22
Training Camp index

But Cleveland still has a lot of issues to address in its first year under new leadership.

Key Questions

1. Who is the starting quarterback?

The Browns have been searching for their franchise quarterback since returning to the NFL in 1999. A decade later there is another controversy at the position involving former Pro Bowler Derek Anderson and 2007 first-round pick Brady Quinn.

Preseason games are going to be huge for these two, and Quinn has jumped out to an early lead with a moderate performance Saturday against the Green Bay Packers. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 68 yards and an interception in a 17-0 defeat, while Anderson didn't fare nearly as well, going 0-for-2 with an interception.

Fantasy Football: 32 Questions
AJ Mass on the Browns' QB situation. Bottom line: It doesn't matter to fantasy owners which QB wins the starting job. Neither guy would be worth starting in fantasy. Story

Mangini says he won't make this decision hastily and will stick with his choice once the decision is made. But based on the offensive system and some early signs, a lot is pointing to the Browns going with Quinn to start the regular season.

2. Will players buy into Mangini's system?

It's no secret that former Browns coach Romeo Crennel was considered a "nice-guy coach." But in four years, that approach didn't work as the team finished with three losing seasons in that span.

  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
  New Browns coach Eric Mangini brings a different style of coaching to Cleveland.

Therefore, the Browns went in the opposite direction in hiring Mangini, who is a stern disciplinarian. At the very least, Mangini expects to clean up some of the lazy mistakes that permeated the team.

There was some butting of heads initially, but at least publicly there haven't been any major dust-ups between Mangini and his players in training camp. It's still questionable if all the players will completely buy into Mangini's disciplinarian approach. Victories probably will be the biggest determining factor of whether everyone stays on board long term.

3. Can the defense improve?

The Browns haven't done many things well defensively the past several seasons. But Mangini and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan feel they have some answers.

Perhaps the biggest wrinkles that are noticeable in training camp have been added to the pass rush. Ryan is not afraid to bring extra defenders at the expense of exposing his secondary. That is something Cleveland was leery of doing in the past.

Free-agent pickups such as safety Abram Elam and linebackers Eric Barton and David Bowens -- all former New York Jets -- know Mangini's system well and are helping the rest of the defense ease the transition. In the early going, Cleveland's defense looks like the strength of this team.

Market watch

The talent has always been there, but for various reasons receiver Braylon Edwards
has had an up-and-down career in Cleveland.


Edwards got off to a slow start in his first two years because of injuries and rookie mistakes. Then he exploded in 2007 with 80 catches, 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns. But Edwards faltered again last season by leading the NFL in drops and catching only 55 passes and three touchdowns.

The Browns are counting on the 2007 Edwards to show up this season. This summer he has been the most dominant offensive player in training camp by making spectacular catches look routine. But he did have one drop Saturday in the preseason opener against the Packers.

Much of Edwards' production this year will rely on which quarterback can get him the football. But playing in a contract year, Edwards looks motivated to produce whenever opportunities come his way.

Newcomer to watch

The first draft pick of the Mangini era in Cleveland naturally will have pressure to perform, and that is certainly the case this year with rookie center Alex Mack. The Browns traded down in the first round to select Mack with the No. 21 overall pick.

  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
  The Browns are hoping to get early contributions from Alex Mack.

So far, Mack has been inconsistent in training camp. The Browns are throwing a lot at him mentally and physically. As the center, he has to be aware of all things on offense. In competing with veteran Hank Fraley, Mack also is getting a lot of reps with the second team and is going against Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who is dominating most of their one-on-one matchups.

But the Browns are hoping Mack's battles with Rogers help him in the long run when he faces equally stout challenges in the AFC North such as Casey Hampton, Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata and Domata Peko.

Observation deck

A crowded field is competing for the No. 2 receiver job opposite Edwards. Rookies Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie and veterans Josh Cribbs, David Patten and Mike Furrey are all getting reps at that position. Massaquoi has been the most consistent receiver this summer, but Cribbs also has made a push with a solid preseason opener. ... Rookie tailback James Davis has been one of the early surprises in training camp. The sixth-round pick from Clemson has shown good vision and a burst that may be able to help spell veteran Jamal Lewis. ... Kicker Phil Dawson and Cribbs both are unhappy with their current contracts. But things have been very quiet on that front and it's unknown if the team would be willing to renegotiate with either player before the start of the season.

What to watch: Browns vs. Packers

August, 14, 2009

Posted by's James Walker

New head coach Eric Mangini will make his debut this weekend when the Cleveland Browns travel to play the Green Bay Packers.

  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
  The competition between Derek Anderson (3) and Brady Quinn for the starting quarterback job heats up Saturday night.

The Browns are a team in transition and still have a lot of questions to answer in the preseason.

Here are some things I'm looking at:

  • Cleveland's quarterback competition between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson will really heat up with the start of exhibition games. Either Quinn or Anderson will get the start and play about a quarter with the first-team offense. The other quarterback is expected to also play approximately a quarter with the second team and likely will start the second preseason game. These performances will be huge in the evaluation process.
  • How will the defense look under Mangini and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan? This is the fifth season the Browns are running a 3-4 and the scheme has yet to be effective in Cleveland. Can Mangini work his magic and turn this defense around?
  • Speaking of the defense, Cleveland needs to generate a pass rush this season after getting just 17 sacks last season. The Browns won't show everything, but they will run some pressure packages to provide clues of how they plan to improve on that abysmal statistic.
  • The Browns want to run the football effectively this season. Tailbacks Jamal Lewis, Jerome Harrison and James Davis all have different skills and will begin to define their roles to the coaching staff in the preseason. It's also important for the offensive line to prove it can dominate the line of scrimmage.
  • Who will emerge as Cleveland's No. 2 receiver? A deep group of competitors includes rookies Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie and veterans David Patten and Mike Furrey. The winner has to prove he can make plays in the preseason.

Posted by's James Walker

The Cleveland Browns agreed to a four-year contract with second-round pick Mohamed Massaquoi Tuesday afternoon, the team announced. Although the Browns do not begin their full training camp until Saturday, rookies reported on July 24.

Massaquoi is scheduled to compete with fellow second-round pick Brian Robiskie for the wide-open No. 2 receiver job in Cleveland. But Robiskie is still unsigned.

Massaquoi will have a chance to get a head start on Robiskie now that the former Georgia product is under contract. Obviously the advantage will depend on how long it takes for Robiskie to sign, but neither player solidified his role in offseason practices.

Other receivers that will compete to be the starting receiver opposite Braylon Edwards include veterans David Patten and Mike Furrey. Edwards is currently on Cleveland's active/non-football injury list.

Posted by's James Walker

  Tom Hauck/Getty Images
  Could Donte' Stallworth play for the Browns this season?
On Monday, when Donte' Stallworth faced an unspecified amount of jail time, it was a near certainty that the Cleveland Browns would have to cut ties with the veteran receiver. But with the news Tuesday of Stallworth's plea deal involving just 30 days in jail for his DUI manslaughter case, the Browns might at least consider their options.

On the plus side, Stallworth should be out of jail before or during training camp and could be ready to rejoin the team this summer after missing a majority of the offseason program. The Browns also paid him a $4.5 million roster bonus in March, which impacts the salary cap and could be influential in the decision.

On the minus side, the Browns already prepared to move on without Stallworth. They spent two high draft picks on receivers in second rounders Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi and spent money in free agency acquiring David Patten and Mike Furrey. Expecting the worst, Cleveland invested a lot in rebuilding its receiving corps, and with Braylon Edwards also on the roster there's not much room left for Stallworth.

The NFL also is expected to come down pretty hard on Stallworth in the form of a suspension, whether it's two games, four games or eight or more games. Once the league completes its due diligence there, the Browns will have to decide if the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Browns notes

May, 21, 2009

Posted by's James Walker

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns finished three days of voluntary minicamp Thursday.

Here are a few notes:

  • Both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson seem to be taking the quarterback competition in stride. The two have been together in Cleveland since 2007, so this is the third consecutive season of fielding the same questions about the position. This year there was also trade speculation involving both quarterbacks.

"I really didn't pay a whole lot of attention to what everyone was writing and saying and reporting," Quinn said. "So during that period of time I'd hear people say things. But it didn't affect my approach towards this year at all."

  • Although Cleveland coach Eric Mangini said Quinn has taken a slight lead early in the quarterback race, Mangini didn't indicate Thursday if anyone was taking hold of the No. 2 receiver spot. Mangini said he's closely monitoring the reps of candidates such as David Patten, Mike Furrey and rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi to examine their strengths and weaknesses. But at this point Mangini isn't worried about where any of these players would fit on a depth chart.
  • Browns tight end Steve Heiden said he's still in the process of rehabbing his knee after surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL. He didn't know when he would be ready to return to practice. But Heiden said the fact that he hurt his knee in December, very late in the season, makes it worse.

"Later in the year it's a little more frustrating," Heiden said. "You want to have that time off to take a mental break, and you can't do it because you're injured. But that's the game. That's football."

  • Cleveland starting tailback Jamal Lewis worked with a trainer Thursday but didn't practice following off-season ankle surgery.

AFC North position battles

May, 20, 2009
  Joe Robbins/Getty Images
  Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson will compete for the starting quarterback job during Cleveland's training camp.

Posted by's James Walker

As the weather heats up, it's time to start looking ahead to this summer's NFL training camps.

The AFC North should be very interesting as several key position battles could make or break a team's 2009 season. Here is a look at the seven most intriguing competitions from around the division:


7. Cornerback: William Gay vs. field

Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

Why it's important: With a veteran-laden team that returns 20 of 22 starters, Gay is the only projected starter in any real danger of losing his job in training camp. All indications are that the job is his to lose. The Steelers signed veteran cornerback Keiwan Ratliff and drafted rookies Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett to provide depth and possibly be there in case Gay falters. But the organization has shown a lot of confidence in Gay since last season when he filled in for former Steeler Bryant McFadden, who signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Gay worked exclusively with the first team in Pittsburgh's full-squad minicamp.

Early favorite: Gay


6. Kicker: Steve Hauschka vs. Graham Gano

Team: Baltimore Ravens

Why it's important: According to Ravens coach John Harbaugh, this kicking competition in Baltimore is going to be "very interesting." Perhaps Harbaugh, a former special-teams coach, is overhyping this battle. But what is interesting is Baltimore is looking for just its second full-time kicker in franchise history. The position was held since the Ravens' inception in 1996 by veteran kicker Matt Stover. But Stover's age (41) finally started to show last season and opened the door for Hauschka and Gano to compete this year. Both young kickers have strong legs, but so far this offseason Hauschka and Gano haven't displayed Stover-type accuracy. If neither kicker comes into his own this summer, things might get "very interesting," as Harbaugh promised.

Early favorite: Even


5. Center: Alex Mack vs. Hank Fraley

Team: Cleveland Browns

Why it's important: This is a classic battle between a first-round pick and an experienced veteran who's started for winning teams and played in the postseason. Mack comes to Cleveland with lofty credentials and expectations. He's strong, smart and expected to be a starter from Day 1. The only person standing in his way is Fraley, 31, who's done a solid job in his two stops with the Browns and Philadelphia Eagles. That Cleveland's new regime, led by coach Eric Mangini, took a center in the first round is a sign that Mack is the favorite to win the job. But if Fraley finds a way to hold the rookie off in training camp, Mack has the versatility to play guard, most likely on the right side.

Early favorite: Mack


4. Linebacker: Rey Maualuga vs. Brandon Johnson

Team: Cincinnati Bengals

Why it's important: Cincinnati's defense, which was ranked No. 12 in 2008, is trying to take another step forward. In order to do this, dynamic linebacker play will be crucial. Maualuga fell to the Bengals in the second round because of several off-the-field questions surrounding the former USC linebacker. But no one questions that Maualuga is a first-round talent on the field. The issue with the Bengals is that Maualuga, a natural middle linebacker, cannot supplant leading tackler and defensive leader Dhani Jones this year. So Maualuga needs to supplant Johnson, the outside linebacker, if he wants to play right away as a rookie. Johnson is no slouch, either. He recorded 83 tackles, two interceptions and came on late last season. Rashad Jeanty, who started 15 games last year, also is a possibility at the other outside linebacker spot. Regardless, the trio of Jones, Keith Rivers and Maualuga/Johnson/Jeanty should make for a solid group of linebackers in Cincinnati.

Early favorite: Even

3. No. 2 receiver

Team: Browns

Why it's important: Someone needs to help No. 1 receiver Braylon Edwards. The long list of candidates includes veterans David Patten, Mike Furrey, and rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. Donte' Stallworth also remains on the roster. But based on Cleveland's roster moves, it appears the Browns expect Stallworth's legal situation to keep him out this season. With the loss of former Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., Edwards is Cleveland's only real receiving threat and he likely will see a lot of double teams. That will provide plenty of opportunities for Patten, Furrey, Robiskie or Massaquoi to make plays. But it remains to be seen if these players have the ability to step up.

Early favorites: Patten and Robiskie


2. ILB: Tavares Gooden vs. Jameel McClain

Team: Ravens

Why it's important: The "bodyguard" role in Baltimore's defense is underrated but very important. There is a reason safety Ed Reed and linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs are able to fly around the field and make plays. It's because the inside linebacker opposite Lewis, formerly the ultra-physical Bart Scott, takes on fullbacks and pulling offensive linemen at every chance. Now the Ravens are looking at Gooden or McClain as Scott's replacement. Both young players have good athleticism. But ultimately, the player who is the most physical will win this job. Gooden opened veteran minicamp as the starter, so you have to give him the edge heading into this summer.

Early favorite: Gooden


1. QB: Brady Quinn vs. Derek Anderson

Team: Browns

Why it's important: The Mangini era in Cleveland, in large part, will depend on his decision at quarterback. An antsy fan base in Cleveland is tired of waiting for a winner and will not give Mangini four years to turn it around. Therefore, the best thing Mangini can do is figure out quickly which player is the better quarterback. It's been three seasons and the Browns still haven't settled this debate. Anderson showed flashes with his Pro Bowl campaign in 2007, but his struggles last year left many questions. Quinn, a former first-round pick, looked up and down in limited playing time. Ironically, the two never directly competed against each other -- until now. According to the coaching staff, both players will be given a fair opportunity. But Cleveland's offensive system under Mangini is being built around a power running game and an efficient and conservative passing game, which seems to favor Quinn.

Early favorite: Quinn

Draft risks and rewards

April, 22, 2009

Posted by's James Walker

The NFL draft is where major decisions are made to either build a team into a contender or lead down a path of destruction.

The AFC North provides a mix of teams with good track records in the draft (Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers), poor draft histories (Cincinnati Bengals) and a new regime trying to make its mark for the first time (Cleveland Browns).

With the draft just a few days away, let's look at the riskiest moves each team will consider.

Cleveland Browns

Needs: WR, LB, C

Biggest risk: Drafting a receiver with the No. 5 pick

  Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images
  The Browns could consider Texas tech receiver Michael Crabtree with their pick at No. 5.

Why: Taking a receiver in the top 10 is one of the riskiest moves a franchise could make. Teams at the top of the draft usually have multiple needs, and receivers can only make a significant impact once everything else -- quarterback, offensive line, running game -- is in place. For example, look no further than the Detroit Lions, who bypassed a ton of talent at other positions to take receivers in the top 10 in 2003 (Charles Rogers), 2004 (Roy Williams), 2005 (Mike Williams) and 2007 (Calvin Johnson). The Lions got absolutely nowhere and eventually hit rock bottom in 2008 by becoming the first 0-16 team in NFL history.

The reward: Cleveland would fill a big need by taking a receiver with the fifth pick. The Browns have backed themselves into a corner with a recent run of roster moves and bad luck this offseason. Since the start of free agency, the Browns released veteran receiver Joe Jurevicius, ran into legal trouble with starter Donte' Stallworth, and currently are involved in trade talks about former Pro Bowl receiver Braylon Edwards. If Edwards is moved by the end of the week, as many expect, the Browns would be down to David Patten and Josh Cribbs as their starting receivers. If the Browns overlook other needs such as linebacker and defensive linemen, the target could be Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree, whom some feel is the best pure athlete in the draft.

Chances of risk: Decent

Cincinnati Bengals

Needs: OT, C, RB

Biggest risk: Not getting a left tackle

  G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images
  Protecting Carson Palmer is something the Bengals need to consider heading into the draft.

Why: Bengals franchise quarterback Carson Palmer needs better protection if Cincinnati is to have any success in 2009. Palmer's 2008 campaign ended after only four games with a season-ending elbow injury. He was pretty much battered from the beginning, as evident by the broken nose he also suffered in the preseason. This isn't to put all the blame on current left tackle Levi Jones. But when your entire offensive line struggles and you're picking sixth overall, left tackle and protecting the quarterback's blindside is the biggest priority. Luckily for the Bengals there are plenty of good tackles in this draft, including Baylor's Jason Smith, Virginia's Eugene Monroe and Alabama's Andre Smith. So not only would it be risky, it would be surprising if Cincinnati bypasses all of them in the first round.

Reward: Although the risk far outweighs the reward, the Bengals also have a chance to land a very good defensive player at No. 6. Cincinnati drafted defense in the first round for four consecutive years, and that unit finally is playing solidly. The Bengals finished last season ranked 12th in total defense. But some holes remain in terms of rushing the passer and getting stronger in the middle of the defensive line. Cincinnati signed Tank Johnson, who could be a short-term solution. But Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji has the potential to dominate the middle for years to come. The Bengals' lack of pass rush also brings up the possibility of choosing Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo over the most pressing need of offensive tackle.

Chances: Below average

Baltimore Ravens

Needs: OL, CB, DL

Biggest risk: Not taking a receiver

Why: It is Baltimore's only glaring need entering the draft. The Ravens were a few plays away from participating in last season's Super Bowl. Even with the loss of several key free agents, Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome plugged enough holes at center and cornerback where this team should be back in contention in 2009. What Newsome and the Ravens didn't address is the receiver position. Behind starters Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason, there isn't much depth or proven talent. And the team would like to utilize the deep-ball capability of second-year quarterback Joe Flacco more often in 2009. Not giving him another weapon in the first round could hold back the growth of the offense.

Reward: By passing over a receiver, the Ravens could simply go with the top player on their draft board. At No. 26, Baltimore should have a choice of good prospects at several positions. There could be some good cornerbacks, linebackers and possibly the top tight end prospect, Brandon Pettigrew. The Ravens aren't in a similar situation to last year when they had to draft a quarterback. There may be other good receivers for Baltimore to target in the second round or later if another position player happens to catch Newsome's eye early.

Chances of risk: Average

Pittsburgh Steelers

Needs: OL, CB, WR

Biggest risk: Ignoring offensive line

Why: It's no secret that the Steelers also have a track record of taking the best available players. But that practice has put them in a current bind where they need quality depth at offensive line. For years, the Steelers ignored taking offensive linemen high in the draft. The last player taken at that position in the first two rounds was former guard Kendall Simmons in 2002. By 2008, Pittsburgh was struggling to consistently run the football. Despite winning a Super Bowl, the need cannot be ignored any longer. Expect the Steelers to bring in help early this weekend in order to get back to the team's physical, smashmouth style of offense.

Reward: Similar to the Ravens, Pittsburgh is not a team with many needs, so it has the luxury of going elsewhere in the first round. For instance, cornerback depth also is important for the Steelers. Therefore if the right corner falls to Pittsburgh with the final pick of the first round, it would be understandable to go in that direction as long as the offensive line isn't completely ignored on the first day of the draft.

Chances of risk: Average

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson

Donte' Stallworth has gotten himself into a world of trouble and his availability for the 2009 season is very much in jeopardy. Let's examine the Browns' group of pass-catchers and what value Stallworth has to the group.

  George Gojkovich/Getty Images
  Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth caught just 17 passes for 170 yards last season.

Despite making a very minimal impact in his one season with the Browns, Stallworth, a former first-round pick, does have some redeeming qualities. At times throughout his career -- mostly with New Orleans -- he has proved to be a dynamic downfield player who possesses top-notch speed. He is a quick-twitch athlete who can make the first tackler miss and take a short pass a long way.

However, Stallworth's inconsistencies are overwhelming. Although he's physically gifted, he doesn't appear to take his craft very seriously, as he hasn't progressed as a route runner or with the nuances of the position. He can struggle to get off jams from physical corners. His toughness is in question as a blocker and as an over-the-middle target. He too often misses time with injuries, as he was sidelined for five games last season.

On the surface, it appears as though Stallworth could flourish next to star players like Randy Moss and Wes Welker, with whom he played alongside of in 2007. Although that experiment was not a total disaster, Stallworth's role in the Patriots' offense dwindled as the season went along. He tends to wear out his welcome. Yet, Cleveland signed him for a similar role alongside its then-talented group of pass-catchers.

Stallworth switched teams in four straight offseasons, which might tell you all you need to know about this player. To say that his free-agent signing didn't live up to the hype after his paltry 17-catch season in 2008 would be a gross understatement.

As if Cleveland didn't have an enough problems carrying over from a year ago, its once-dynamic group of receiving options is now heavily depleted. Tight end Kellen Winslow is more wide receiver than inline tight end and his trade to Tampa Bay subtracted a sometimes top-flight weapon from the Browns' passing attack.

Braylon Edwards is coming off a down season and obviously drops far too many passes, but he is still one of the few players at his position who is a true No. 1 wideout. However, he enters his final season under contract and wants out of Cleveland. The Browns may just grant him his wish and ship their only true playmaker out. Obviously, this would make a poor group even worse -- with or without Stallworth in the fold -- and Jamal Lewis should expect to see plenty of stacked boxes in 2009.

Josh Cribbs is an excellent all-around player, but counting on him to make monumental leaps with his pure wide receiver ability is probably asking too much. Offseason pickup David Patten should be able to contribute as a spot player, preferably out of the slot, but he surely is not someone who Cleveland opponents will feel the need to game plan around.

The rest of the current wideout corps is underwhelming on a good day, and the Browns are going to have some uncertainty with the man responsible for distributing the football as well. Stallworth has shown time and time again that he isn't a No. 1 wideout. At his best, he was a worthy No. 2, but after last season's performance, I would struggle with him in my top three. If I were in charge of this organization, Michael Crabtree would be sitting at the very top of the draft board.

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Posted by's James Walker

Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC North:

Morning take: This signing displays some internal uncertainty coming from the Browns in regards to the legal situation of Donte' Stallworth.

  • Former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson, the cousin of Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, said he recently talked to Ocho Cinco but isn't sure where he stands with Cincinnati.

Morning take: Things have definitely been quiet on the Ocho Cinco front. But everyone will have a little more information next week when Cincinnati opens its offseason program.

Morning take: This should be a hard-hitting matchup with plenty of good story lines. But, of course, I would have preferred to see the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens kick off the 2009 season on a national stage.