AFC North: Ohio State

Pryor's debut may be against Browns

August, 23, 2011
After leaving Ohio State amid controversy for accepting illegal benefits, new Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor could face another Ohio team in his NFL debut. If Pryor's five-game suspension stands, his first game will be Oct. 16 against the Cleveland Browns.

Fortunately for Pryor, the game is in Oakland. Many Browns fans are Ohio State fans. Therefore, Pryor is one of the most unpopular athletes in Cleveland this year.

Pryor's camp has gone back and forth about whether to appeal the suspension. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made a controversial ruling to punish Pryor for transgressions he made at Ohio State before entering the league. If Pryor challenges, the suspension could be lifted or reduced.

But Pryor's first game will be against Cleveland if the suspension sticks. It's a little twist of irony for Pryor, who is trying to move forward with his football career.
On Monday we learn the NFL future of former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Could he stay in the Buckeye state to join the Cleveland Browns or Cincinnati Bengals?

Both were among the reported 17 teams to send representatives to Pryor's workout. That indicates there is some level of interest from the NFL's two Ohio teams.

Earlier this summer, we provided all the reasons why the Browns should take a flier on Pryor. Browns president Mike Holmgren loves taking developmental quarterbacks. Pryor is a raw prospect who could use the tutelage of quarterback gurus Holmgren and head coach Pat Shurmur. If it doesn't work out, the Browns need help at receiver, too. Pryor ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds.

The Bengals also need as much talent as possible. They are starting rookie quarterback Andy Dalton, who is off to a slow start this preseason. Veteran journeyman Bruce Gradkowski is the backup, but the third quarterback spot is wide open. Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour are both expendable, and Pryor's athletic ceiling is much higher. He also spent time this offseason working with former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson.

It would make sense for both Ohio teams to consider Pryor this afternoon in the supplemental draft.
Here are the latest happenings Thursday evening in the AFC North:
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North:
  • The Steelers are set to release starting left tackle Max Starks, according to Alex Marvez of FoxSports.
Morning take: This is a surprising move. Most people pegged Flozell Adams as the first tackle to go, but Starks does have a bigger contract. This is further proof that Pittsburgh has a lot of tough decisions to make to get under the cap.
  • Ravens linebacker Sergio Kindle (head) will not start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, writes Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun.
Morning take: This is great news for Kindle and the Ravens. Both sides need an early gauge on how much Kindle can handle following a fractured skull last summer, and being cleared will allow that.
  • Browns head coach Pat Shurmur doesn't rule out a bid on former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes.
Morning take: We like the idea because it's low risk and high reward. With Jake Delhomme about to be released, the third quarterback spot is wide open.
  • Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson tells Carlos Holmes of the Dayton Daily News this will be his breakthrough year.
Morning take: Simpson did well at the end of last season, but Cincinnati still drafted A.J. Green to start ahead of him. If Chad Ochocinco stays, Simpson may have to fight for playing time.

Morning take: Hines Ward speaks

July, 16, 2011
Here are the most interesting stories Saturday in the AFC North: Morning take: Ward thanked his fans for their support but didn't elaborate whether he feels he will be cleared of all charges, which is what his rep said last week. Eventually, this all will be handled through the legal system.
Morning take: The Bengals have too many inexperienced quarterbacks already in Andy Dalton, Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour. Adding a fourth quarterback with zero NFL starts wouldn't work in Cincy.
Morning take: The Browns will be looking for several starters at defensive end, safety and possibly on the offensive line. It's imperative that Cleveland general manager Tom Heckert is prepared for various scenarios.
Morning take: Offensive guard Marshal Yanda is the most important name on this list. He could get interest from several teams and could leave a big hole on Baltimore's offensive line.
Last week we wrote the Cleveland Browns should take a flier on former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

This week the Browns, via a source, informed the Cleveland Plain Dealer they're looking into the possibility.

Cleveland will do its "due diligence" on the controversial but athletic quarterback, according to the report. Pryor is leaving Ohio State a year early following a suspension for various rule violations that eventually led to the firing of former Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel.

Pryor comes with questions, but we believe he's worth the risk for Cleveland as a projected fourth-round pick in the supplemental draft. Credit the Browns for at least taking the first step and looking into it.
Colt McCoy and Terrelle PryorKirby Lee/US PresswireIn five words or less, caption this photo of Terrelle Pryor (right) and Colt McCoy.

Last week we wrote a column explaining why the Cleveland Browns would be a great fit for former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. This week we want to get feedback on the interesting photo that accompanied the story.

In five words or less, share your thoughts on this picture from the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. McCoy and Texas upended Pryor and Ohio State, 24-21, and this was the postgame meeting between the two quarterbacks.

Have fun and keep it clean.
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.
Here are the latest happenings Tuesday evening in the AFC North:
  • Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco is working out with former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
  • Can linebacker Sergio Kindle get to the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens?
  • Here is more from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley's recent visit with the NFL Network.
  • Here is a recap of this week's chat on the Cleveland Browns and the rest of the AFC North division.
Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC North: Morning take: For the past decade, Tressel has been the most successful football coach in Ohio. But I don't believe his style translates well in the NFL.
  • Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman and pending free agent Chris Chester could return as a backup.
Morning take: Chester, and Baltimore's offensive line, struggled last season. But Chester has some versatility to play guard and center and could bring value in that way.
  • Add cornerback Adam Jones to the list of Cincinnati Bengals who don't want quarterback Carson Palmer back if Palmer's heart isn't into it.
Morning take: Everyone seems to get it in Cincinnati except those who will make the decision. There is nothing to be gained by having Palmer sit at home, and if Palmer returns unhappy, that presents a potentially toxic situation at the cost of $11.5 million.
Morning take: Polamalu beat out Ravens safety Ed Reed again. Both are great, but I can go without this debate in the blog for a while now.
Here are the latest happenings Wednesday evening in the AFC North:

Walker's weekend mailbag

June, 4, 2011
Let's see what in our AFC North inbox this week.

Steven Velte from Baltimore writes: JW, why does Joe Flacco get so little respect around the league and Matt Ryan gets much more praise?

Walker: Steven, I don't have a clear answer. But I do have a "face of the franchise" theory involving these two quarterbacks. Both players are very close at this stage of their careers, but the difference is Flacco is not the face of the Ravens. Ray Lewis is. After that there's Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, etc. For the Falcons, Ryan is the face of the franchise. So I think he gets much more publicity and credit for his team's success, despite their statistics being almost identical the past three seasons.

Will from Sykesville, MD, wants to know what the chances are of Flacco beating Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers this year.

Walker: We opened that question up to our community this week, Will, and most believe it's not going to happen in 2011. I'm not ready to make any firm predictions, but I was a little surprised by the results. Flacco has been close in the past, Super Bowl runners-up usually struggle the following year and Baltimore's roster is stacked even before free agency. Injuries aside, I expect the Ravens and Steelers to compete for the AFC North title again. Flacco and the Ravens have their best shot to catch Pittsburgh at home in Week 1.

Rye Dalton from Encinitas, CA, wants to know if the Cleveland Browns would have any interest in the supplemental draft for Ohio State players.

Walker: Good question, Rye. The Browns have additional draft picks to spare in 2012 and need all the help they can get this year. So I would list the Browns as a potential candidate for the supplemental draft. The two players of interest for the Browns could be offensive tackle Mike Adams and tailback Dan Herron, because they both play positions where Cleveland lacks depth.

JMo from Bed Stuy wants to know if safety Darren Sharper could be a target for the Browns.

Walker: I don't see this as a good match, JMo. If Sharper plays next season, he's in the twilight of his career and probably wants to play for a contender. The Browns, in my opinion, are at least. ... OK I'm not going to say it this week. I don't want to upset those Browns fans who think their team will be Super Bowl contenders this year.

Michael Ricke from Kristiansand, Norway, wants to know why Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer would want out now.

Walker: Until Palmer speaks publicly, we won't have the full details. But reading the signs, Palmer is tired of the losing and has lost confidence in the Bengals' ability to field a championship-caliber team. Palmer, 31, gave Cincinnati his prime years and only has a few good seasons left. Palmer believes he has a better chance of winning a Super Bowl elsewhere. And after watching Cincinnati for the past 20 years, I don't think anyone can argue with Palmer's line of reasoning.

Christian from Phoenix wants to know what kind of offseason activities have Bengals players organized.

Walker: The Bengals have held a few gatherings, Christian, and the team will have organized practices for the next two weeks. The Bengals are a young, rebuilding team and need to get the work in.

Derrick from Rochester, NY, wants to know where Steelers safety Troy Polamalu ranks with some of the all-time great defenders.

Walker: Polamalu is definitely unique, and I think when his career is over, he will be a Hall of Famer. But it's hard to compare him with other all-time great defensive players like Lawrence Taylor, for example, until Polamalu's career is over.

Complaint department

Here are recent comments and complaints from our community.

Dustin from Pittsburgh writes: It's hard not to agree with Brett Kostoff's response. If you were in an abusive relationship for 20 years, would you stick around for another 20? Probably not. At some point you have to say enough is enough, cut your losses and move on. And we all know the Bengals have a lot of losses to cut.

Brandon Crawford from Sykesville, Md, writes: Sounds like Kostoff is making a lot of excuses. If you are a true fan you stick with your team through black and blue. Bottom line. This guy is a disgrace to all TRUE fans of the game.

Nick Diligente from Cleveland writes: I've been a fan for 30 years. After reading Brett Kostoff's response and listening to him compare it to the cable bill, I am starting to doubt my loyalty to the Browns. He really put it into a perspective the Browns fans should look at. Do you think the Ravens fans would let me move to Baltimore as Art Modell did?

Walker: Whether you agree or disagree with Kostoff auctioning his fandom, I think he makes a compelling case. Being a fan is an individual thing. One person's tolerance may be higher or lower than the next person. In Kostoff's case, he put a lot of time, money and energy into the Bengals and 20 years without a playoff win was enough. He didn't believe he was getting enough from his team in return. For other fans, the tolerance may be higher.

Andy from Clarion, PA, writes: James, it's obvious that the Steelers would love to have Ike Taylor back and Ike would love to come back. The only problem is that the Steelers seem unlikely to pay top dollar for him. If we would have another uncapped year, why would the Steelers not just pay him what he wants for that year and try to work out a longer deal later on or work on developing younger players in the meantime.

Walker: Andy, there are some holes in your reasoning. First, the Steelers don't know if there will be another uncapped year, and even so, Pittsburgh approached 2010 as if there was a cap. Second, Taylor is 31 and wants a long-term deal. This is probably Taylor's last chance to cash in big for his career and he won't sign a one-year contract. I would assume Taylor wants at least three years.

Jordan M. from Belle Vernon, Pa., writes: I'll occasionally read the comments on some of your posts, and the Nnamdi Asomugha to the Steelers posts are as aggravating as they are ridiculous. I can just imagine how frustrated you are by it, because I'm sure you get deluged daily w/that nonsense.. So I think you should start every post with "Nnamdi to Steelers-Never" until FA starts. It might deter the endless questions you receive.

Walker: It was frustrating at first, Jordan. But I have a way of finding humor in things, so eventually it became a running joke in the AFC North blog. He might be the most popular football player in Pittsburgh never play for the Steelers.

Kovacs from Santa Monica, CA, writes: Not AFCN related, but I can't take it anymore. Tony Romo is not good. He's not a winner. He has decent stats because he has arguably the best offensive arsenal in the game: Witten, Austin, Dez, Jones/Barber/Choice. Tony Romo is good at two things: looking good and playing golf. Rant over.

Walker: I've never been big on Romo, either, Kovacs. He's a good quarterback. But Romo is not a proven winner and gets too much hype due to the team he plays for.

Mike from Ashtabula, Ohio writes: Hey, glad you got a good laugh from my comments the other day. Well, it’s the truth. The Browns will win the division this year, Mr. Walker, and I hope you cover the team like you did with the Steelers and Ravens last year. The Browns will win 12 games this year and [Colt] McCoy will throw for 3,500 yards. TAKE THAT TO THE BANK.

Walker: I will remember you said that, Mike. By the way, are you sure McCoy will throw for 3,500 yards with those receivers?

AFC North "Homer of the Week"

Here is the biggest homer in the AFC North this week. Enjoy.

Justin Isett from Baltimore writes: I hate to say this, because this has homer written all over it, but the Ravens or the Steelers going undefeated isn't entirely impossible. Apart from each other they only have maybe three tough matches in which they would probably be favored. Pittsburgh has a Week 11 bye then Kansas city and a lot of rebuilding teams. So I don't think a 16-0 or 15-1 record for Baltimore or Pittsburg is unrealistic.

Walker: Justin, you knew you were going to be our "Homer of the Week" for this one. Neither Pittsburgh nor Baltimore will go 16-0 or 15-1 next season. As Mike from Ashtabula said, TAKE THAT TO THE BANK.

If you have any future questions, complaints, or homerific comments, feel free to send them to our AFC North inbox.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North: Morning take: Ward suggests flag football, which would do the trick but is too extreme. The league is doing all it can while remaining full contact, and the Steelers have to adjust.
Morning take: I agree with the article that offensive tackle Mike Adams and tailback Dan Herron would be the two to catch the Bengals' eye. Both play positions where Cincinnati could use depth.
  • Will Baltimore Ravens rookie Jah Reid play right away?
Morning take: I don't know if he's ready, but Reid has a really good shot at right tackle. Free agency and Jared Gaither's future will be determining factors.
  • Here is a look at what Cleveland Browns tailback Peyton Hillis will face to avoid the "Madden curse" this year.
Morning take: Whether you believe in it or not, the "Madden curse" has been a factor with injuries. Hillis plays a very physical position and is certainly at risk in 2011.
Here are the latest happenings Wednesday evening in the AFC North: