AFC North: Ken Lucas

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

  • Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer believes the Browns are a .500 team.
Morning take: If the Browns finish .500, the AFC North might be the best division in football in 2010.
Morning take: Take your pick, Ravens fans: Ken Hamlin, Ken Lucas or Walt Harris?
Morning take: It's pretty impressive that Cincinnati still had the fourth-best defense with an average pass rush. That's a credit to the team's secondary play during the past season.

  • Bill Bender of the Sporting News asks if tailback Rashard Mendenhall can carry the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Morning take: It won't be a one-man effort to start the season, but "Mendy" will play a big part. Keeping up last year's 4.6-yard average would do the trick.
This much we know: The Cincinnati Bengals love a good reclamation project -- especially when it's on the cheap.

Jones
Jones
That is why it's no surprise that the Bengals feel Adam "Pacman" Jones is a good fit for their franchise. He reached a two-year deal with Cincinnati on Thursday at the league minimum.

Yes, Cincinnati could use another corner behind starters Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. More reasonable options such as Dre' Bly and Ken Lucas were probably too expensive for the team's liking. But signing a troubled player for pennies on the dollar is a vintage move by Bengals ownership.

Jones' poor off-field behavior led to his demise with the Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys. But as long as it doesn't hurt the bottom line, that doesn't matter to the Bengals.

It's no secret that football is a rough sport. Show me a team with 53 choirboys and I'll show you a team that cannot make the playoffs.

But also show me a team that consistently cuts corners and ignores character and I'll show you the Bengals -- a franchise that's never won a Super Bowl and hasn't posted back-to-back winning seasons in 28 years. If the goal is winning championships, there's more than enough evidence Cincinnati's way of doing business doesn't work.

The Bengals will say they're confident Jones has changed his stripes. But Thursday's controversial and cheap signing is further proof that the Bengals refuse to change theirs.

AFC North post-draft holes

May, 6, 2010
5/06/10
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Baltimore Ravens

Post-draft hole: Cornerback

Analysis: Unless the Ravens' brass knows for sure that cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington will be ready for Week 1 following knee surgeries, the team may want to explore the free-agent market to see what's out there. If the season started today, Baltimore would be down to its fourth cornerback -- presumably Chris Carr -- in the starting lineup opposite Domonique Foxworth. The nickel and dime roles are even more uncertain. Players like Dre' Bly and Ken Lucas are still available. Perhaps Baltimore is biding its time for now. Because if just one of the Ravens' injured cornerbacks returned in time for training camp or the regular season, that would be a solid boost towards the secondary.

Cincinnati Bengals

Post-draft hole: Secondary depth

Analysis: One of the few weaknesses in Cincinnati's stout defense last season was defending slot receivers and tight ends over the middle. The nickel cornerback, in particular, was a problem area and the Bengals may have addressed that with third-round pick Brandon Ghee. Cincinnati also is in the process of working out a contract with controversial cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, who is a former first-round pick that was out of football last year. Jones could be a wild card for Cincinnati if he gets his act together. The Bengals also have been looking at free-agent safeties like Ken Hamlin and Gibril Wilson.

Cleveland Browns

Post-draft hole: Wide receiver

Analysis: There are still various question marks on Cleveland's roster. But the biggest glaring need right now is at wide receiver. New team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert have been diligent to patch up certain areas on the roster. But the one spot the pair failed to really address was receiver, only drafting sixth-round pick Carlton Mitchell. Last year's second-round pick, Mohamed Massaquoi is the only (somewhat) proven commodity on the roster. The cupboard was extremely bare coming into the offseason, so it's understandable that everything couldn't be fixed in one year. But if veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme is going to have a bounce-back season, someone has to step up and catch his passes.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Post-draft hole: Quarterback

Analysis: This is somewhat of a trick answer. But through the first six games, quarterback will be the biggest weakness of the Steelers. Star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will serve a conditional six-game suspension to start the season that could be reduced to four games. Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch will try to keep the team afloat in the meantime. Besides, perhaps, some depth issues at wide receiver, Pittsburgh doesn't have many holes on its 2010 roster. The front office did a solid job this offseason of patching up questions at offensive line (Maurkice Pouncey) and cornerback (Bryant McFadden).

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