AFC North: Jake Delhomme

What a QB tale they've told

October, 23, 2013
10/23/13
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The number 20 is special in many circles.

The 20th anniversary means a little more than the 16th, and a young man or woman who turns 20 feels a little more "adult."

[+] EnlargeJason Campbell
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsJason Campbell's play at quarterback is a key reason why the Browns are optimistic about making the AFC playoffs.
So when the Browns name their 20th starting quarterback since 1999 -- the year the team returned from a three-year hiatus -- it's worth taking a trip down memory lane (the screams in the background are from Browns fans whose memories are being jogged ... feel free to offer appropriate sympathies).

1999

  • Ty Detmer -- The plan to have him hold the fort lasted for one blowout loss, in the season opener against Pittsburgh.
  • Tim Couch -- The original No. 1 choice, had a couple of good years but not enough.
2000

  • Couch
  • Spergon Wynn -- Chris Palmer was lobbied to play him by the front office, and he produced two first downs in one game.
  • Doug Pederson -- Now Kansas City's offensive coordinator, started the Dennis Northcutt/Kevin Johnson quarterback game.
2001

  • Couch -- The only season when one quarterback started every game.
2002

  • Couch
  • Kelly Holcomb -- The year of the Dwayne Rudd helmet-removal game and the blown playoff game in Pittsburgh.
2003

  • Holcomb -- Incurred the "teeny-tiny break of a non-weight bearing bone in his leg."
  • Couch -- Late this season, Butch Davis told Couch he was his quarterback for years to come; Couch was released in the offseason.
2004

  • Jeff Garcia -- He never quite fit in, though he thinks he does now.
  • Holcomb
  • Luke McCown -- Interim coach Terry Robiskie admitted when McCown played, it was men against boys.
2005

  • Trent Dilfer -- Good guy, but chewed up by the Cleveland system always looking for the next guy.
  • Charlie Frye -- Had moments as a rookie until the Christmas Eve massacre against Pittsburgh.
2006
2007

  • Frye -- Traded after the Browns lost the season opener.
  • Anderson -- Had the best season of a Browns QB since 1999, won 10 games, but didn't win the game needed to make the playoffs.
2008

  • Anderson.
  • Brady Quinn -- The town was jubliant after Phil Savage traded up to get him and Joe Thomas in the first round.
  • Ken Dorsey -- At this point hopes were dimmed.
  • Bruce Gradkowski -- Signed to start the last game when everyone else was hurt.
2009

  • Quinn and Anderson -- Yo-yoed back and forth by Eric Mangini.
2010

  • Jake Delhomme -- Mike Holmgren's interim solution.
  • Seneca Wallace -- Holmgren's backup solution.
  • Colt McCoy -- Holmgren's drafted solution.
2011

  • McCoy -- The year he was put back in the game with a concussion in Pittsburgh.
  • Wallace
2012
2013

  • Weeden
  • Brian Hoyer -- Showed promise before unfortunate injury.
  • Campbell -- Passed over twice, now starting.
There are mixed feelings about the Browns getting rid of Mike Holmgren as team president, based on the results of the SportsNation poll. Of the 7,053 votes, 42 percent say it was the right move and 41 say it was not.

Here are some comments from the AFC North blog readers:

Tony from Columbus, Ohio: Mike Holmgren should have been the coach, not the de facto owner.

Michael from Cincinnati: At a time the Browns were in need of a decisive leader, Holmgren proved to be indecisive from the start. From keeping Eric Mangini as coach to failing to even muster up a legitimate offer in the Robert Griffin III sweepstakes, Holmgren should never have been.

[+] EnlargeMike Holmgren
AP Photo/Mark DuncanPoll voters were mixed in their opinions of Mike Holmgren's time with the Cleveland Browns.
Joe from Columbus, Ohio: The people who voted to keep Holmgren must not be Browns fans. He is building at a glacial pace. He had no defined job, no passion and let his rookie coach hang himself. Why be here if you're not going to use your coaching experience to help the guy and the team out? He was overpaid, underworked, and underachieved. In Jimmy (Haslam) we trust.

Rich from Charlotte, N.C.: Yes, I'm excited about the new owner. However, here we go again with more turnover. The GM and head coach will soon be gone and with that a whole new phylosophy of the game will come in. New offense, maybe back to the 3-4 defense. So that means starting over with new players. At most there should be turnover at the coaching level. The Packers and Seahawks didn't start winning overnight. It took at least, If I recall, it took three or four years before they were contenders in games. I wish they would have given Holgrem and the GM at least another year.

Aaron from Cleveland: No, the Browns did the right thing by letting Holmgren go. His role with the team under Randy Lerner was as de facto owner. Under the new regime, the owner will be active in the operation of the team. Further, Holmgren was never good at being a GM or president of a team. When he had the dual role of GM and coach in Seattle, he was quickly stripped of the GM role. Lerner never wanted to be involved with the Browns and was terrible at making personnel decisions relating to running a football program. Holmgren was his last, best testament to that failure as an owner.

Mark from Fredericksburg, Va.: I think that you can see that the Browns are on the right path to becoming relevant in this league. I think we can thank Mike Holmgren and the personnel he brought in for what looks to be bright days ahead for the franchise. However, Jimmy Haslam absolutely has the right to bring in the personnel he feels comfortable with leading his franchise. If the Browns turn this thing around with the players they have in place right now, then all credit can go to Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert. Sustaining it will be the job of Joe Banner.

Paul from Lake Helen, Fla.: No, Mike failed. He should not have been kept on because of three big mistakes. 1. Waiting too long to fire Eric Mangini and then re-booting and installing a new system. 2. (The Cleveland fans called this right away) Hiring Pat Shurmer, a rookie head coach. The Browns have had way too many inexperienced head coaches. Cleveland has been Coaching 101. 3. Not attracting any high-profile free agents to fill holes and not drafting any Pro Bowl talent with their high draft picks. Goodbye Big Show, time to close the curtain on the No Show.

Matt from California: I'm really split on the Holmgren firing. On one hand, we definitely started to develop a good defense under him and drafted very well. I'm still holding out hope Heckert stays, but I really think Pat Shurmur was just not the right choice as coach. That was Holmgren's biggest decision and has not worked out well at all from a win perspective.

Kevin from Chicago: Holmgren's record speaks for itself. No one expected him to turn the Browns into a Super Bowl contender immediately, but a 10-30 record is indefensible. He made a number of critical mistakes, including bringing Jake Delhomme in as the starting quarterback, and neglecting the wide-receiver position. Pat Shurmur often appears befuddled on the sidelines, and is on his way to cementing his reputation as one of the worst head coaches in the franchise's history. Mike Holmgren was paid king's ransom to turn a long suffering franchise into a winner, but his actions and questionable work ethic have instead further relegated the Browns to irrelevance. Jimmy Haslam demonstrated to the team and the fans that losing will no longer be tolerated in Cleveland.
As a rookie, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton didn't throw an interception in nine of his 16 games. This year, he has been picked off in each of his six games.

That's only part of Dalton's interception problem. He's had three interceptions returned for touchdowns this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information's Zach Jones, Dalton is not close to setting any records in this category.

Since 2004, there have been four quarterbacks who have had three picks returned for scores in a team's first six games: Jake Delhomme (2004 and 2005), Joey Harrington (2007), Peyton Manning (2008) and Chad Henne (2009). The last quarterback who has thrown more than three in a season was Manning, who had four in 2001.

AFC North weekend mailbag

February, 26, 2012
2/26/12
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It's never a good Sunday when it's Sunday without football games. But it does give us time to open some mail ...

Todd from Vallejo, Calif., writes: My question relates to the Bengals draft picks. By all accounts, the players they want to select (guard David DeCastro, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, running back Trent Richardson, etc.) will all be gone by picks 17 and 21. I have a hard time seeing them reach for a running back with those picks or even a lesser guard (like Cordy Glenn) or risky corner (Janoris Jenkins). What do you think they will do? Trade up or down?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: The Bengals are more likely to trade down, especially at No. 21. It seems like every draft there is some team wanting to jump back into the bottom part of the first round to get a quarterback. Since the Bengals have Andy Dalton, they would be happy to drop back and acquire more picks. The only player that I could envision the Bengals trading up for is Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Cincinnati wouldn't mortgage the entire draft for Richardson, but it would be willing to move up a few spots if he surprisingly falls out of the top 10. Of course, I would be extremely surprised to see Richardson slip that far.


Abe from Baltimore writes: Don't you think the Ravens will be better suited going for Pierre Garcon, Mario Manningham, or Robert Meachem rather than breaking the bank for any of these big-name wide receivers?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: The Ravens don't have the salary-cap room to go after a wide receiver like Vincent Jackson. As I wrote last week, the best fit is the Colts' Reggie Wayne, whose value will be lowered by the number of young deep threats available in free agency. If Wayne proves to be too expensive, the Ravens still need to add a free-agent wide receiver because Lee Evans was a flop and Tandon Doss apparently isn't ready to get on the field. Baltimore only had two wide receivers with more than four catches, so the Ravens have to upgrade here.


Ben from Pensacola, Fla., writes: Even if Robert Griffin III is every bit as good as Cam Newton, there's no way he'd have that kind of success in Cleveland. Newton was throwing to a pair of good tight ends and Steve Smith, with a nice running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. RG3 comes into an offense with no running game and, frankly, a terrible group of receivers and tight ends. I understand Colt McCoy probably isn't getting the most out of the players around him, but even Tom Brady would have a hard time scoring points for the Browns. The Browns need a lot more than a new quarterback to be even solid on offense.

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: I understand your argument for a lack of playmakers, but you can't downplay the fact that a franchise quarterback elevates the talent around him. That's why Cam Newton had more success with this supporting cast than Jake Delhomme, Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore. There's no doubt that the Browns have to significantly improve the players at the skill positions. But McCoy isn't a quarterback who gets the most out of his teammates. I'm not saying RG3 will do this. I'm just saying the Browns have to look elsewhere because McCoy isn't the answer.


Jared from Orlando, Fla., writes: Do you think that Heath Miller will ever get to the Pro Bowl again? Granted the one time he made it, it was because one of the tight ends chosen was in the Super Bowl that year. I'm extremely biased as a Steeler fan who grew up in the same town as Heath. However, it seems like the only tight ends to make the pro bowl are pass catchers. Heath has great hands, but he's at least top three in the league as a blocking tight end. Thoughts?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: Miller has been underused the past two seasons, especially in the red zone. But he won't get to another Pro Bowl because he's on the decline. Over the next couple of drafts, the Steelers have to take a look at adding an athletic pass-catching tight end like Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham and Baltimore's Ed Dickson. That's the direction the NFL is headed, and Pittsburgh is going to be forced to fill the void there sooner than later. Miller is entering the final year of his contract.


Cameron from Cincinnati writes: If the Bengals are going to get a guard and a cornerback with their first two picks, which looks likely, what position do they address next? Running back, or wide receiver?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: Running back comes next in the draft, and wide receiver is among the priorities in free agency. The Bengals need to get younger and faster at running back. That means the draft is the best way to address the position. As far as wide receiver, Cincinnati needs a dependable route-runner as the second option to A.J. Green. The Bengals can find one in free agency.


Gene from San Diego writes: What's more important in the draft for the Ravens: an outside linebacker opposite [Terrell] Suggs, an inside linebacker for the future or a center?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: In order of priority, I would go inside linebacker, center and outside linebacker. It wouldn't be a surprise to see others rank these differently because it's a tough call. I put inside linebacker first because this is the time to find that heir apparent to Ray Lewis, so the rookie can learn under the future Hall of Fame linebacker. The Ravens can get by this year with Matt Birk at center and Paul Kruger at outside linebacker.


Sean from Van Wert, Ohio, writes: I know that Cleveland needs help at receiver. With all the big names out there, we should worry about overspending. Which is why, I keep bringing up Pierre Garcon. He would be a great fit for Cleveland's West Coast offense, and we could get him for less than DeSean Jackson or any of the other big names wide receivers. I believe we could land Garcon around the $13-15 million range over three to five years. What are your thoughts on Garcon landing in Cleveland?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: I put Garcon on the top of my list in terms of the best fit for Cleveland. The reason? Garcon provides what the Browns desperately need at wide receiver -- speed. He showed he can stretch the field, and he proved that he doesn't need an elite quarterback to do so after Peyton Manning was sidelined all season.


DJ from Brockport, N.Y., writes: Have the Browns actually shown interest in Robert Griffin III or is it all rumors and assumptions at this point?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: Browns officials met with RG3 for a 15-minute interview on Friday night. But it doesn't take a top analyst like Trent Dilfer to answer this question. The Browns need to upgrade at quarterback, and RG3 will be top quarterback available after Andrew Luck gets drafted by the Colts. Cleveland officials don't have to draft RG3, but they do have to consider it.


John from Medon, Tenn., writes: With Rashard Mendenhall's injury, could you see the Steelers potentially having an interest in Peyton Hillis? I know they don't spend much in free agency, but Hillis could possibly be had at a decent price after a bad year. Hillis' hit-the-hole-hard style would actually be a better fit than Mendenhall's constant hesitation at the line of scrimmage. Hillis in a Steeler uniform would be very intriguing.

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: The Steelers aren't going to make many free-agent signings because of their limited cap space. So it would surprise me if they chose to use that precious cap room on a player who struggled on the field for most of the season, got hurt and became a malcontent in the locker room. I believe the Steelers need to address running back in free agency, but it would be out of character for Pittsburgh to pursue Hillis.


Michael from Cleveland writes: How crazy is it to think the Colts will draft Robert Griffin III and the Browns move up to draft Andrew Luck?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: This is beyond crazy. Actually, this is the very definition of fantasy football for Browns fans.
The Cleveland Browns will cut veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme later this week, removing his $5.4 million salary from their books for a player who would have been a third-stringer.

Cleveland probably should have made this move before the lockout when it was clear Delhomme was no longer a capable starter, and the team was going forward with second-year quarterback Colt McCoy. But it's better late than never.

Delhomme was a good mentor to McCoy, but that was pretty much his only asset in Cleveland. As a starting quarterback, Delhomme was often injured and turnover prone. In five games, he threw for 872 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions. At 36, Delhomme is well past his prime, and both McCoy and Seneca Wallace outperformed Delhomme last season.

Cutting Delhomme opens a spot for Cleveland to bring along another young, developmental quarterback to learn behind McCoy and Wallace. We suggested former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft, although that doesn't seem like a move the Browns typically make.

This also gives Delhomme a chance to seek other options in free agency. At the end of last season, Delhomme didn't seem like a quarterback who wanted to retire, and he could serve as a mentor elsewhere for a more affordable salary.
Here are the latest happenings Tuesday evening in the AFC North:
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North:
  • Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed responds to his No. 5 ranking on the NFL Network's top 100, which was voted by the players.
Morning take: Reed was rated one spot ahead of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. I wanted to stay away from another "Troy Reed" debate this week. But feel free to dig in.
Morning take: As we mentioned Wednesday, each day without a collective bargaining agreement makes it tough for an off-site training camp. The Steelers trained at St. Vincent College for 45 consecutive years, but the streak is in doubt with the NFL lockout.
  • Will quarterback Jake Delhomme become a cap casualty for the Cleveland Browns?
Morning take: Unless the Browns want to pay $5.4 million for a third-string quarterback, I don't see how Delhomme can return under his current deal.
  • Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens wants to do a television sitcom loosely based on his life.
Morning take: Owens has his eye on his next career, which is commendable. Many players struggle in their next phase of life, but acting could fill that void for Owens.
Here are the latest happenings Tuesday evening in the AFC North:
Colt McCoy and Terrelle PryorKirby Lee/US PresswireEven with Colt McCoy in the fold, the Cleveland Browns should take a look at Terrelle Pryor.
Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor shouldn't have to look far for his ideal NFL fit. If they're smart, the neighboring Cleveland Browns should be the first team in line to take the raw and talented prospect in next month's supplemental draft.

Cleveland, coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons, is desperate for talent at any position. Pryor presents the perfect scenario for the Browns: He comes at no risk but could offer a high reward.

Pryor is projected to be a fourth-round pick in July's supplemental draft by everyone not named Drew Rosenhaus. That's a modest cost for someone with Pryor's athletic ability, big-game experience and pedigree. That is especially the case for the Browns, who have nine draft picks next year -- including two first-rounders -- following a cunning trade with the Atlanta Falcons.

The Browns have draft picks to spare in 2012. Why not grab Pryor now and begin teaching him the nuances of the NFL game?

In Cleveland, Pryor would work with two quarterback gurus -- Browns president Mike Holmgren and head coach Pat Shurmur. The pair developed NFL quarterbacks such as Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb and Sam Bradford, just to name a few. Like many observers, I have doubts about Pryor at quarterback in the NFL. But I like his chances a lot better working with Holmgren and Shurmur.

At best, Pryor turns out to be a viable starting quarterback in the NFL. Otherwise, Pryor could try his talents at wide receiver. Oh, by the way, the Browns need help there, too. They have arguably the league's worst group of receivers.

Holmgren said after the draft that his only regret was that Cleveland didn't select a developmental quarterback in the later rounds.

"I think philosophically, I always like to take a quarterback in the draft late," Holmgren explained. "But that also had to make sense. This year, based on our roster needs and what we had and what we needed to do, we did the right thing. Now, are we finished adding to the quarterback pile? I don’t think so. ... I think we are going to try and figure out a way to get another guy in here."

Adding Pryor in the supplemental draft would address those concerns.

Despite his big name, Pryor would not be a threat to second-year quarterback Colt McCoy, who enters the year as the starter. Pryor and McCoy played in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl and developed a healthy respect for each other in college.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteTerrelle Pryor finished his college career with 6,177 passing yards, 57 TDs and 26 interceptions.
Pryor would provide "McCoy insurance" for Cleveland, which is needed. The Browns are backing McCoy this season, but no one knows for sure if he is the long-term solution. With Pryor, the Browns would have two young quarterbacks to develop simultaneously and could double their chances of having one pan out.

Behind McCoy is backup Seneca Wallace, who signed a three-year extension in March and knows the West Coast offense better than anyone. But the third quarterback spot is there for the taking.

Struggling veteran Jake Delhomme, 36, is holding the seat warm until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. After that, Delhomme’s immense $5.4 million salary kicks in and Cleveland is expected to terminate his contract.

If you were general manager of the Browns, would you rather have an aging, overpaid veteran as the third-string quarterback, or an inexpensive player with upside like Pryor, who may develop into something greater down the road? The answer is a no-brainer.

The Browns are not the favorites to land Pryor. The current regime has taken a conservative approach to building the team's foundation -- and there's nothing wrong with that. Drafting Pryor is anything but conservative, but this would be a perfect calculated risk for Cleveland to take.

The worst-case scenario is that Pryor flops in the NFL and the Browns miss on a fourth-round pick, a spot that doesn't have a high success rate to begin with. Cleveland could wait to use that pick next year on a punter or a right guard and get the same result.

Opportunity is knocking in Cleveland. The team just has to be smart enough and willing enough to answer the door.

The Browns would be wise this summer to take a flier on Terrelle Pryor.
There is a reason the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have been able to win Super Bowls and have tremendous success coming out of the AFC North. Part of it is due to the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals making poor personnel decisions.

On Thursday Football Outsiders provided its top 10 most disappointing free agents, and three on the list were from the NFL's two Ohio teams.

Coming in at No. 8 was Cleveland's infamous decision to sign receiver Andre Rison in 1995. At the time the Browns made Rison the highest-paid at his position by giving him a five-year, $17 million contract. Rison quickly became a bust in Cleveland and flamed out after one season.

No. 4 on the list was a more recent signing by the Browns. Last year Cleveland needed a quarterback and vastly overpaid for veteran Jake Delhomme, who was released by the Carolina Panthers due to poor performance. The Browns paid Delhomme $7 million last season to throw for just 872 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions. By midseason, Delhomme was either injured or holding a clipboard for rookie quarterback Colt McCoy, and Delhomme likely will be released before Cleveland pays him another $5.4 million this season.

No. 3 on the list was the Cincinnati's signing of free-agent receiver Antonio Bryant to a four-year, $28 million contract in 2010. Despite persistent knee problems the season before, Cincinnati's medical staff overlooked Bryant's issues and gave him $8 million up front in guaranteed money. But Bryant was never healthy enough to play football last year, and the Bengals cut their losses by releasing Bryant before the regular season. The Bengals essentially paid Bryant $8 million to never play a single down in Cincinnati.
Can the Cleveland Browns pay a projected third-string quarterback a reported $5.4 million this season?

That probably says all you need to know about Jake Delhomme's shaky future in Cleveland.

The Browns like Delhomme's veteran presence and leadership. But the past two years -- including the 2010 season in Cleveland -- proved Delhomme, 36, is no longer a starting NFL quarterback. The Browns paid Delhomme $7 million last season to throw for 872 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions in five games. Comparing dollars and production, it was one of the worst investments last year in free agency.

After signing a two-year deal last offseason, Delhomme is now one of the AFC North's prime candidates to be released whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. Delhomme said immediately after the season that he wasn't sure he will be back, and Cleveland's front office has been elusive on the topic.

The Browns are going all-in with second-year quarterback Colt McCoy this season and recently signed backup Seneca Wallace to a three-year extension. The Browns did not select a developmental quarterback in the NFL draft this year. That leaves a roster spot open for Delhomme, but only if he's willing to take a very significant pay cut to stay in Cleveland.
Cedric Benson & Ike TaylorUS PresswireSteelers cornerback Ike Taylor, left, and Bengals tailback Cedric Benson are pending free agents.
The lockout has reached 71 days and counting, which continues to push back NFL free agency. This also means the league is bracing itself for an unprecedented whirlwind of player movement this summer once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

With that said, here are seven questions and answers to get you up to speed on free agency in the AFC North:

Question No. 1: Will the Cincinnati Bengals re-sign tailback Cedric Benson?

Benson
Benson
Answer: Yes, all signs are pointing toward Benson returning. With back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Benson has been a good fit in Cincinnati. He had issues last season with former offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, who was fired, and now Benson is excited about returning to the Bengals. As a 28-year-old running back, there will not be a huge market for Benson. Therefore, Cincinnati wouldn't have to overpay to keep Benson. With a rookie quarterback (Andy Dalton) likely starting this upcoming season, new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden says he wants to run the ball early and often, which has to be music to Benson's ears.

Question No. 2: Will the Pittsburgh Steelers re-sign Ike Taylor?

Taylor
Taylor
Answer: This is a tough one. Although I wouldn't be surprised either way, my sense is Taylor will not return to Pittsburgh in 2011. He's 31 and the Steelers would rather avoid the going rate for good cornerbacks on the open market, which is currently $8-10 million per year. Taylor says he wants that market value, and he has a much better chance of getting it somewhere else. Taylor already has two Super Bowl rings and this is his final chance to land a big contract. So no one should fault him for leaving. The Steelers will spend money on their front seven but do not value cornerbacks all that much, as evidenced by their recent draft history.

Question No. 3: Will Nnamdi Asomugha land in the AFC North?

Asomugha
Asomugha
Answer: The overall answer is no. I do not expect Asomugha to land in the AFC North. But if any team in the division has a fighting chance to get Asomugha, it's the Baltimore Ravens. Asomugha has a history with new Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who coached Asomugha for two seasons (2005-2006) with the Oakland Raiders. Oakland led the NFL in pass defense in 2006, as Pagano helped Asomugha develop into a star. That connection, along with Baltimore being a contender, could put the Ravens on Asomugha's radar. But money could get in the way as Asomugha is slated to become one of the league's highest-paid players. This summer, Baltimore also is expected to make Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata one of the highest paid at his position, and it's difficult to envision the Ravens fitting in both contracts.

Question No. 4: Will the Browns be aggressive in free agency?

Edwards
Edwards
Answer: Yes. The Browns have deep pockets and a lot of needs, which is usually a formula for teams to make significant moves in free agency. The Browns will have plenty of cap space -- if there is a cap -- so look for them to land at least one or two key additions. We mentioned two potential targets recently in defensive end Ray Edwards and safety Donte Whitner. Cleveland won't be able to compete with Pittsburgh and Baltimore until it closes the talent gap, so the Browns need impact players. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Browns is competing with other aggressive teams and convincing free agents why they should join a rebuilding team this season.

Question No. 5: Which players are on the chopping block?

McGahee
McGahee
Answer: There are several interesting names to keep an eye on in the division. The two near-certainties are Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco and Ravens running back Willis McGahee. Both likely will be cut whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is reached because of their declining production and high salaries. Both are scheduled to make $6 million next season, and the Ravens and Bengals will be eager to slash that off their books and allocate those resources elsewhere. Also, Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme and Bengals defensive ends Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom could be additional salary casualties in the AFC North.

Question No. 6: So where will Ochocinco end up?

Ochocinco
Ochocinco
Answer: The Bengals don't want Ochocinco, but there should be several teams interested in his services. Ochocinco, 33, is no longer a Pro Bowl-type receiver. But he can still be a solid threat and fits best on a contending team as a complementary weapon. In my opinion, the best fits for Ochocinco are the New York Jets and New England Patriots. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has publicly campaigned to get Ochocinco to New York, and Ochocinco himself has said he would love to play for the Patriots; he has a good relationship with coach Bill Belichick. Both teams are expected to be contenders next season.

Question No. 7: Will the Bengals trade quarterback Carson Palmer?

Palmer
Palmer
Answer: That decision is up to Bengals owner Mike Brown, and I don't see him changing his mind to make a move. From Day 1, Brown has been consistent in saying he has no intention of trading Palmer, who threatened to retire. There was a small ray of hope after the draft, once the Bengals landed Dalton, that Brown could have a change of heart. But he ended that speculation this week. I think it's a mistake for the Bengals to not at least field offers for Palmer and determine if the value is there. Palmer seems serious about his trade demands and it wouldn't do Cincinnati much good to have Palmer sitting at home in California. Multiple draft picks in 2012 could help the future of the Bengals franchise, but it appears Brown is more worried about setting a precedent for other unhappy players to leave. For now, it looks like the ball is back in Palmer's court to either return to Cincinnati or retire.
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC North: Morning take: The Bengals clearly aren't happy with their receiver trying out for a pro soccer team and riding a bull. But it probably won't matter because Cincinnati is expected to release Ochocinco and his $6 million salary.
Morning take: This is a solid turnout for a team which expects to be a contender in 2011. Working on timing and chemistry between quarterback Joe Flacco and his receivers are particularly important this time of year.
Morning take: That was another Ravens-Steelers classic that saw Baltimore blow a 21-7 halftime lead. The Ravens are still steaming from that loss, as show Ray Lewis' recent comments showed.
Morning take: This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Holmgren also said Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme are in the mix, but realistically the team is backing McCoy as their quarterback in 2011.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North: Morning take: Sometimes starting over can invigorate a coach, and Cincinnati is definitely beginning a new era. The Bengals have some young talent to at least make things interesting.
Morning take: Credit Delhomme for showing leadership. But don't be surprised if he's not on Cleveland's roster this fall. McCoy's the starter and Seneca Wallace received an extension, making Delhomme a possible third-stringer.
Morning take: Cornerback Ike Taylor is the most important for the Steelers. Offensive lineman Willie Colon and defensive lineman Chris Hoke also would be a nice veterans to keep for leadership and depth.
  • Baltimore Ravens rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor will reach out to starter Joe Flacco for help.
Morning take: That's a pretty wise move for a rookie. Taylor, a sixth-round pick, is in line to compete for a backup job. The Ravens will likely sign a veteran, so Taylor needs to hit the ground running.

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