AFC North: NFL combine

Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC North:
  • Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun writes about Nevada defensive end/linebacker Dontay Moch, who believes he's the next Terrell Suggs.
Morning take: If Moch is half as good as Suggs, the Ravens should consider him. Moch certainly can run, posting a blazing 4.44 in the 40-yard dash.
Morning take: Although I like the combine, many elements are overrated. If the Browns did their homework during the college football season, they already had a very good idea which players fit their system.
  • Geoff Hobson from the Cincinnati Bengals' website says the team remains adamant they are not trading franchise quarterback Carson Palmer.
Morning take: This is considered silly season, when you start having conflicting reports on the same story. Traditionally the Bengals have stood firm in these standoffs, but it's different when your franchise quarterback wants out.
  • Steelers safety Ryan Clark told CBS radio in Pittsburgh that he hopes the team retains starting cornerback Ike Taylor.
Morning take: Taylor is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the week. With the high price for cornerbacks, chances of his return decrease if Taylor hits the open market.
Here are the most interesting stories Sunday in the AFC North: Morning take: The Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are two division teams that thrive picking later in the draft. If your scouting staff has put in the work, there is still great talent available.
Morning take: Clay Matthews is lighting up the NFL, which has helped Casey's stock. But Casey's style is different as an inside linebacker. Could he be Ray Lewis' next pupil?
Morning take: This is a good year to do it. This draft is full of good prospects at defensive end and defensive tackle, which are always needed in the physical AFC North.
Morning take: Receiver is the only position the Browns could be in the market for early on offense. But it's debatable whether that's a bigger need than defensive end.

Morning take: Bengals like Cam Newton?

February, 26, 2011
2/26/11
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Here are the most interesting stories Saturday in the AFC North: Morning take: Cincinnati's quarterback situation is in turmoil with Carson Palmer. This week we brought up some comparisons made between Newton and Akili Smith and, fair or unfair, that will only heighten if the Bengals continue to show interest.
Morning take: Even at the combine, the NFL's best rivalry continues.
Morning take: This is the Steelers' thinnest position, especially if they don't re-sign Ike Taylor.
Morning take: This defense doesn't work without good defensive ends. The Browns currently don't have any on their roster.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North:
  • Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren says he's looking for a "home-run hitter" at the NFL combine.
Morning take: Does that mean he's looking for a home run receiver and a home run defensive end? That is the question.
Morning take: FoxSports' Adam Caplan lists seven, and that doesn't include quarterback with Carson Palmer's potential retirement. The draft will help, but this is at least a two-year rebuilding effort in Cincinnati.
Morning take: Stallworth's early foot injury set him back and he was never able to find a firm role in the offense. The Ravens need speed and the pending free agent has it.
Morning take: The Steelers are thin at corner, so that could lead to Taylor returning. But I could also see age and the price tag for corners causing a potential separation.
Here are the latest happenings Friday evening in the AFC North:

Chat preview

March, 2, 2010
3/02/10
2:30
PM ET
Join me at 4 p.m., ET Tuesday for our weekly chat on the AFC North.

I'm recently returning from the NFL combine. So we can talk draft or the upcoming free agency as it pertains to the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here is the link.

Morning take: No T.O. in Cincy?

February, 25, 2010
2/25/10
7:30
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Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North: Morning take: Perhaps Chad Ochocinco's overtures for Owens were premature. But it’s a fact that Ochocinco needs more than Matt Jones to get Cincinnati's offense where it needs to be.
Morning take: The deadline to get a deal complete is 4 p.m. ET Thursday. If not, Hampton will get the franchise tag and the team could still negotiate.
Morning take: With 11 picks, the Browns are going to be major players in the draft. This week is a huge part of that process.
Morning take: This is silly season in the NFL. You can only believe a small portion of what you hear, because rumors will be flying all over the place.

AFC North blog on Twitter

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
5:00
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The AFC North blog already has a solid following on Twitter. But the goal is always to strive for more.

Therefore, I'm stepping up my Twitter game, starting with this week's NFL combine. Here is the link to follow all the action. You can also click on the Twitter logo to the right.

The AFC North blog will be the place to get in-depth combine coverage on the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. But I also will post additional nuggets, information and observations via Twitter for those wanting even more insight.

So if you're not already following the AFC North blog on Twitter, now is a great time to start. I highly recommend it.

Morning take: Steelers' Reed tagged?

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
7:00
AM ET
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC North: Morning take: This means Reed can seek other deals in free agency and the Steelers will have the right to match. The potential to lose Reed would create some extra intrigue for Pittsburgh.
Morning take: Look for teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens to watch Gresham's progress closely this week. Injuries kept him out of football last season.
Morning take: Monachino worked with Terrell Suggs in college. Let’s see if he can help Suggs bounce back with a great year in 2010.
Morning take: By now AFC North readers should be familiar with my hard rule to never draft a receiver in the top 10. The Browns have too many holes to fill before they should consider Bryant.

Chat preview

February, 23, 2010
2/23/10
2:00
PM ET
Join me at 4 p.m. Tuesday for our weekly chat on the AFC North.

The NFL combine is this week, so I'm sure the draft will be a heavy topic of conversation. We can also discuss anything else pertaining to the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here is the link.

Morning take: Ravens prep for combine

February, 23, 2010
2/23/10
8:00
AM ET
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC North: Morning take: With so many rules restricting Baltimore in free agency, this year's draft and trade market will be vital if the Ravens want to improve.
Morning take: The Cleveland Browns are the only AFC North team I can envision making a run at Peppers. But even then, chances aren't good that Peppers lands in this division.
Morning take: Specifics were not provided, but you hope for the best with Lake and his family.
Morning take: There are not a lot of core names here. But I am interested to see what the team does with starting offensive linemen Bobbie Williams and Kyle Cook.

NFL draft mailbag

February, 10, 2010
2/10/10
12:00
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Now that the season is officially over, we are getting a lot of interest this week in the NFL draft.

So let's get to some questions.

Justin from Pittsburgh asks "why is everyone so high on Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen?"

Walker: To my knowledge, thoughts on Clausen are all over the place, Justin. Some NFL scouts really like him, some don't. Without a strong quarterback class this year, Clausen could be a first-round pick. But right now I'm not particularly high on him in terms of being in the top 10. I could warm up to Clausen during this draft process, but we'll see. I just don't feel he's a sure thing, which is what you need in a first-round quarterback. Otherwise, an organization could suffer for years.


Jim Kara from Anaheim, Calif., writes: Do you have any idea who the Cleveland Browns will be drafting with this year's draft? Do you really think they will take someone like Florida quarterback Tim Tebow with any of their choices?

Walker: The Browns are in position to take the best available player, which makes predicting their draft tough this year. Reportedly, they are high on Florida cornerback Joe Haden, which makes sense. But before the combine and free agency, it's probably too early to predict at this point. I doubt Tebow is seriously on Cleveland's radar -- at least not high in the draft. General manager Tom Heckert recently had a lot of great things to say about Tebow, but every GM will do the same publicly leading up to the draft.


Sean McMann from Pittsburgh writes: Say both Dez Bryant and Mardy Gilyard both, for some miracle reason fall, in the draft to the Bengals. Who do you think they should go for in that situation?

Walker: Bryant with no hesitation. Gilyard should be available at No. 21. But right now I feel that is too high for him.


Dave from Cleveland writes: What do you think about the possibility of Colt McCoy dropping into the second round and the Browns possibly drafting him there?

Walker: It’s very possible McCoy could land in the second round, Dave. But McCoy is another quarterback I would be hesitant to draft too high. As you can tell, I'm pretty down on this year's QB class in general. Recent players like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez have raised the bar so high with their early success that teams will feel pressured to play these rookie quarterbacks right away. Of the group, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is the only rookie I feel might be ready to step in next season. But he has some questions (shoulder injury) as well.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

A case can be made that no NFL rookie has had more bad publicity the past several months than Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith.

 Smith

It started with the suspension for Alabama's bowl game. It continued when Smith unexpectedly left February's NFL combine. Then his private workout was considered average at best by scouts and onlookers. Smith also fired his agent once and reportedly is in the middle of more agent drama.

But through all the recent turmoil and bad choices, Smith's talent on the field made him the sixth overall pick by Cincinnati. Drafting that high, the Bengals will invest approximately $50 million in Smith, whose main job is to protect franchise quarterback Carson Palmer from another season-ending injury.

Is Smith worth the risk? The Bengals think so. They recently cut starting left tackle Levi Jones, which all but assures Smith will start right away.

Rookies, Vets on the Hot Seat
ROOKIES ON THE HOT SEAT
• AFC: N | S | E | W
• NFC: N | S | E | W

VETS ON THE HOT SEAT
• AFC: N | S | E | W
• NFC: N | S | E | W

If Smith plays well this year, people will quickly forget the recent missteps. But if Smith struggles or doesn't pan out, many will wonder why the Bengals ignored some of the early red flags during the draft process.

Honorable mention: The Cleveland Browns held the fifth overall pick, and instead of making a big splash, they traded down three times to take University of California center Alex Mack. By most accounts, Mack was the best center in the draft. But the fact that Cleveland could've taken more highly-touted players at the top of the draft board certainly puts pressure on Mack to perform. The New York Jets traded places with the Browns and took USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. If Sanchez proves to be a quality franchise quarterback, something Cleveland hasn't had since Bernie Kosar, the Browns could hear about this deal down the road.

Inside the AFC North II

February, 26, 2009
2/26/09
1:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

With free agency starting in less than 12 hours, we thought it was best to provide another insider's look at what's currently going on within the AFC North division.

 
  Fernando Medina/US PRESSWIRE
  Will the Browns keep or trade QB Derek Anderson?
  • Things are extremely quiet on the Derek Anderson front and we're being told that the Cleveland Browns weren't even actively shopping him at the NFL combine last week. The Browns would be open to trade possibilities if the right deal came along. But as of right now, teams in need of quarterbacks are not interested until the Browns pay the guaranteed $5 million bonus due March 13. Once that bonus is paid, the phones should ring more often and it will be up to the Browns whether to keep or trade Anderson after already paying that huge bounty.
  • Speaking of contract negotiations, the Baltimore Ravens have had serious discussions this past week in regards to both linebacker Bart Scott and center Jason Brown. It looks like Scott is the leader of the two at the moment. It is unlikely the Ravens will be able to keep both players and Ray Lewis in house for 2009.
  • The depletion of the cornerback market is not helping the Pittsburgh Steelers. Players such as Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Dunta Robinson of the Houston Texans were taken off the market last week. This continues to climb Pittsburgh's Bryant McFadden to the top of the list of available corners and will make it even more difficult to sign in free agency.
  • As we noted in this space Wednesday, Cincinnati Bengals free-agent receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh will have no shortage of suitors starting tomorrow. Noticeably absent from our long list was Cincinnati. Despite coach Marvin Lewis' claims to keep Houshmandzadeh, most people around the league do not believe the Bengals will compete with the type of money Houshmandzadeh will command on the open market. Therefore, we kept the Bengals off the list. Cincinnati has a history of backing down from bidding wars with its own quality players. The most recent examples include guard Eric Steinbach, defensive end Justin Smith and safety Madieu Williams. Next week you can add "Housh" to the list.

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