AFC North: NFL Roster Analysis 2010

Cleveland Browns cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of Cleveland's roster moves.

Biggest surprise: The biggest surprise is that Cleveland waited until after 9 p.m. ET Saturday to announce its moves. Supposedly, it was a strategic decision so other teams were not aware of players the Browns made available. I don’t think it makes a difference, especially because the Browns are not a team rich with talent to begin with. As far as players, Browns cornerback Brandon McDonald's name stood out most on this list. His career has been up and down, but he brought a wealth of starting experience (27 starts) to a young secondary. McDonald may have helped seal his own fate when he made negative headlines this summer for an offensive tweet aimed at Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens. The Browns were not pleased with McDonald’s poor judgment.

No-brainers: Quarterback Brett Ratliff had no shot of making this team, because the Browns already have their three players at the position in Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and rookie Colt McCoy. New Browns president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert made several additions at cornerback this offseason, including veteran defensive back Sheldon Brown and rookie first-round pick Joe Haden. That made it very tough for young corners such as Coye Francies to make the team. Receiver Syndric Steptoe has talent and may get interest elsewhere, particularly as a kick returner. But with Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs in Cleveland, the Browns have no use for Steptoe.

What's next: Despite Cleveland establishing its 53-man roster, the Browns should still be active on the waiver wires. This roster overall is not very deep, especially compared to its AFC North counterparts. So the Browns could make some additions in several areas to improve the bottom of their roster. Backups shouldn’t get too comfortable in Cleveland.

Cincinnati Bengals cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of Cincinnati’s roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Chase Coffman was once considered the tight end of the future for Cincinnati. But the team drafted first-round pick Jermaine Gresham and re-signed Reggie Kelly, who will get all the playing time. The Bengals made a nice, last-minute acquisition by trading with the Jacksonville Jaguars for former first-round pick Reggie Nelson. Cincinnati traded cornerback David Jones, who was expendable after the team signed Adam Jones this offseason. But the Bengals were searching for depth at safety. Rookie receiver Dezmon Briscoe’s release also stood out. He didn’t immediately live up to his potential but showed flashes in the final preseason game. Cincinnati was very deep at receiver and chose Jerome Simpson instead for one of the final roster spots. Look for Cincinnati to claim Briscoe on the practice squad if he's not claimed by another team.

No-brainers: Veteran receiver Matt Jones was a predictable cut and I called this one in the AFC North blog. Jones, who was out of football in 2009 for off-the-field reasons, just never looked like the great athlete he once was when he was drafted in the first round by Jacksonville. He also had a team-friendly, one-year contract that made Jones easy to release. Mike Nugent also won the kicking competition with Dave Rayner, which made the Rayner cut predictable.

What’s next: This is the most talented team I've seen in Cincinnati during coach Marvin Lewis' tenure. Several Cincinnati players could find jobs with other teams soon, which is not the norm for the Bengals. That’s a credit to the depth on this year’s roster. Cincinnati also could be looking for a fullback with Fui Vakapuna waived/ injured.

Bengals players cut:

K Dave Rayner

G Isaac Sowells

S Marvin White

DT Orien Harris

S Kyries Hebert

TE Chase Coffman

TE Darius Hill

HB James Johnson

DT Clinton McDonald

S Rico Murray

WR Maurice Purify

WR Dezmon Briscoe

G Otis Hudson

OT Gabriel Manns

S Jeromy Miles

LB Vincent Rey

OT Chris Rodgers

CB Johnny Sears

FB Joe Tronzo

Pittsburgh Steelers cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of Pittsburgh’s roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Although it was somewhat expected this week, Justin Hartwig's release is the biggest for the Steelers. There is no doubt Hartwig was one of the team’s top 53 players, but he was released after losing his job to first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey. Hartwig also made starter money, an estimated $2 million. Kick returner Stefan Logan was solid last year, but his lack of versatility made him expendable. Pittsburgh will be looking for a new kick returner as a result. Both rookie receivers, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, made the team. Most projected Pittsburgh would only keep one and try to get the other on the practice squad.

No-brainers: Running back Justin Vincent showed a few flashes, particularly early in the preseason. But a crowded group of running backs in Pittsburgh made Vincent expendable. There were also a pair of recent draft picks who never panned out in cornerback Joe Burnett and offensive guard Kraig Urbik. Because of need, both players had chances to contribute to their respective positions but never developed. Rookie defensive lineman Doug Worthington is considered a project, and he’s a candidate for the practice squad.

What’s next: Pittsburgh’s veteran-laden roster is pretty much set. It doesn’t appear the team will make any major moves at quarterback following Byron Leftwich's injury. But the team could search the waiver wire for depth on the offensive line, which was inconsistent this preseason. With Frank Summers’ release, the team may also be in search for a fullback.

Baltimore Ravens cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
Check here for a full list of Baltimore’s roster moves.

Biggest surprise: The biggest name on this list, and perhaps in the AFC North, is backup quarterback Troy Smith. He nearly had Baltimore's starting job two years ago but an illness knocked him out of the running and opened the door for starter Joe Flacco. The Ravens were open to trading Smith but couldn’t find a suitor. Shayne Graham was the preseason favorite to win Baltimore’s kicking job after signing as a free agent. But after a stiff competition in training camp and the preseason, incumbent Billy Cundiff edged Graham, who statistically is one of the NFL's most accurate active kickers. Receiver Demetrius Williams was another surprise.

No-brainers: Tight end Davon Drew's fate was sealed early when the Ravens drafted two rookies at his position high in the draft. Todd Heap, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta all looked solid this preseason, making Drew expendable. Cornerback Travis Fisher was another player who had an opportunity to show what he can do. Because of injuries, Fisher spent a brief time with the starters this summer but played poorly and didn’t take advantage. Baltimore also pulled off a trade for backup linebacker Antwan Barnes with the Philadelphia Eagles for a conditional draft pick. The Ravens were deep at linebacker and gained back a pick for next year that they lost to the Seattle Seahawks recently in the Josh Wilson trade.

What’s next: Baltimore may scan the waiver wires to see if there’s any hidden gems available in the secondary. Cornerback depth is always welcomed on the Ravens and safety Ed Reed going on the physically unable to perform list makes adding another safety an option. Otherwise, Baltimore’s roster is stacked and ready to go. It’s time for the Ravens to prepare for their Week 1 showdown with the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football."