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Quick takes on AFC North news

4/15/2013

Not sure if this equates to a two-minute drill, but this is my way of playing catch-up on the latest news and happenings around the division ...

Headline: The Cincinnati Bengals are aiming to sign former Steelers linebacker James Harrison this week.

Bottom line: Cincinnati would get more of an every-down impact out of Karlos Dansby, who also visited the team last week. Still, the Bengals would be getting an extremely motivated Harrison. Based on that, it would be a good move for Cincinnati.

Headline: The Baltimore Ravens signed inside linebacker Rolando McClain.

Bottom line: He fills a major need at inside linebacker and he comes at a bargain price (one year, $700,000). If McClain gets in trouble, the Ravens can release him because they've invested nothing. If he proves he can play, Baltimore can make a bigger commitment to him. This doesn't rule out the Ravens drafting an inside linebacker. But, with McClain, they aren't forced to draft one.

Headline: Alabama prospect Dee Milliner says he and Joe Haden would form the best cornerback tandem in the NFL if the Cleveland Browns selected him in the draft.

Bottom line: This shows that Milliner has the confidence needed to play corner in this league. The Browns have a major need at cornerback after failing to aggressively improve this position in free agency. Whether they draft Milliner remains to be seen. I plan to address the Browns' draft options in Wednesday's weekly column.

Headline: The Browns signed wide receiver David Nelson.

Bottom line: With all of their cap space, the Browns could have made a bigger free-agent addition to the wide receiver group in free agency. But this has the chance to be a deft move if Nelson plays like he did in Buffalo in 2011, when he caught 61 passes. Nelson is a good option for the slot and brings experience to the Browns, who also looked at Dominik Hixon before he signed with the Carolina Panthers.

Headline: Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said he is making steady progress from his second torn ACL in four years.

Bottom line: After Webb's last ACL surgery, he didn't start any games the following season. That can't be the case this year. The Ravens need him to return to his starting role after losing Cary Williams in free agency.

Headline: The Bengals released backup cornerback Jason Allen.

Bottom line: The Bengals have a lot of salary-cap space, but they aren't going to pay unproductive players just because they have the room. Allen was injured for most of the season and managed to play in four games, including no starts. The Bengals made a lot of good moves in the secondary last offseason, but Allen wasn't one of them. The move freed up $3.2 million in cap space.

Headline: The Browns acquired backup running back Dion Lewis by trading linebacker Emmanuel Acho to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Bottom line: This is another instance of getting rid of player from the old regime (Acho was a sixth-round pick by the Browns last year). In doing so, the Browns picked up a player who has ties with chief executive officer Joe Banner. Lewis was a fifth-round draft pick in 2011 by Philadelphia, where Banner was president at the time. While Travis Benjamin should handle punt returns, Lewis will get a chance to return kickoffs.

Headline: The Steelers plan to bring in free-agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw for a second visit before the draft.

Bottom line: It's no secret that the Steelers want to sign Bradshaw when he checks out medically. He had surgery on his right foot this offseason, and based on his original timetable, he is expected to participate in offseason camps. But it's not a slam dunk that Bradshaw is coming to Pittsburgh. The Bengals, Packers and Broncos have all expressed interest in him.

Headline: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was named to the NFL competition committee, which is a group of coaches and administrators who recommend playing rules and policy changes to the NFL owners for a vote.

Bottom line: I'm sure Tomlin will have some strong views, especially when it comes to rules on safety. Steelers players have been very vocal on those issues in the past. It's interesting to note that one-third of the competition committee is now comprised of officials from the AFC North: Tomlin, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Headline: The Bengals signed offensive lineman Mike Pollak.

Bottom line: Not sure about this addition. The Bengals are set as far as depth at guard and center. Pollak did make 41 starts for the Colts from 2008 to 2011 but he was also benched twice.

Headline: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has agreed to portray the late Johnny Unitas in an upcoming film called "Unitas We Stand."

Bottom line: Flacco will play Unitas in scenes showing Baltimore's 1958 championship game against the Giants. This is a nice gesture by Flacco to honor a Baltimore football legend. And playing a quarterback isn't exactly out of Flacco's comfort zone. This isn't like Shaquille O'Neal playing a military scientist. If you think I made that last line up, check out "Steel," a 1997 movie that surprisingly got a 2.7 out of 10 in the fan rating.