AFC North: retire

The Baltimore Ravens will hold a news conference Thursday to announce the retirement of longtime kicker Matt Stover, the team announced on its website. Stover had a distinguished 19-year career spent mostly with the Cleveland Browns and Ravens.

Stover became the most famous holdover between the rival franchises when the Browns left Cleveland and moved to Baltimore. He kicked for the Ravens during the team's first 13 seasons, which included Baltimore's Super Bowl run in 2000. Stover also spent five seasons kicking for the Browns.

Stover most recently had a brief stint with the Indianapolis Colts in 2009 and became the oldest player to participate in a Super Bowl. He was 42 at the time.

Stover will retire with a career field-goal percentage of 83.7 and will be remembered as one of the most reliable kickers in NFL history.

AFC North mock drafts

April, 7, 2011
ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both provided their latest NFL mock drafts this week.

Here is how they view things playing out in the AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals (No. 4)

Kiper: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

McShay: Green

Analysis: Cincinnati is the only AFC North team Kiper and McShay share the same thinking. Both believe the Bengals will take Green, the top-rated receiver in the draft. I like Green a lot, but I don't think he's the best pick for Cincinnati. It's unknown who will throw the ball to Green with franchise quarterback Carson Palmer threatening to retire. The Bengals also have plenty of young receivers, and for now Chad Ochocinco remains under contract. The Bengals would be better off addressing their front seven on defense for next season.

Cleveland Browns (No. 6)

Kiper: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

McShay: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

Analysis: I like the Quinn pick, but both of these selections come with questions. Quinn and Jones would address Cleveland's two biggest needs, which are defensive line and receiver. But Quinn missed all of 2010 with a suspension and would have to overcome rust next season. Jones is a dynamic talent but a bit of a reach unless Cleveland trades down. In both cases, the Browns may choose to go safer with the No. 6 overall pick.

Baltimore Ravens (No. 26)

Kiper: Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

McShay: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Analysis: Smith and Harris are talented prospects. But I'm not convinced Baltimore is going cornerback in the first round. The Ravens have starter Domonique Foxworth returning from knee surgery. Josh Wilson was solid last year and will be pursued by Baltimore in free agency. The team also likes young corner Lardarius Webb. Cornerback is a possibility if the Ravens stick to the best player available. But in terms of need, a right tackle and pass-rusher would be more important.

Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 31)

Kiper: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

McShay: Danny Watkins, G, Baylor

Analysis: Both players would fill needs for Pittsburgh in the secondary and offensive line. But with No. 1 corner Ike Taylor not under contract, Williams may be the better pick. The Steelers are very thin at corner and were exposed in that area at times last season. If Pittsburgh cannot re-sign Taylor, which is not a guarantee, it's a must that the team adds depth early in the draft. Williams is physical and his solid tackling would fit well with defensive coordinator's Dick LeBeau's aggressive style. I also like Harris in this spot if he makes it to No. 31.
The lockout is potentially bad news for Carson Palmer.

The Cincinnati Bengals' franchise quarterback, who demanded to be traded this offseason, remains in a holding pattern until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. The Bengals have held firm in saying they will not trade Palmer. But even if Cincinnati wanted to entertain offers, it couldn't.

Palmer's chances of playing for another team in 2011 would decrease if a new CBA isn't reached before the draft April 28. Draft picks are one of the league's biggest forms of currency. Cincinnati already is leery about trading Palmer. But if the Bengals can't get quality picks this year in exchange for their starting quarterback, they may just keep Palmer on the roster.

The only trade options for Cincinnati after the draft would be for future picks and/or players. Neither are attractive options for the rebuilding Bengals (4-12). Future picks do not help the team this upcoming season, and the Bengals probably cannot get equal value for Palmer in a player-for-player deal.

Palmer has threatened to retire if he isn't traded. If the lockout goes beyond April, there's a good chance Cincinnati could call Palmer's bluff.

Posted by's James Walker

With less than 24 hours before the start of training camp, the Baltimore Ravens find themselves back to square one when it comes to wide receivers. This comes after the second piece of shocking news hit the position, when veteran Drew Bennett retired just two days after signing a one-year contract.

As much as the Ravens claim publicly that they are confident in their receivers, the team doesn't appear comfortable enough to go into the regular season with Mark Clayton and perhaps Demetrius Williams as the two starters. Last week the team did two things in an attempt to bolster the position: Baltimore held a tryout with four receivers and also had a talk with Derrick Mason about his retirement.

The tryout resulted in choosing Bennett, which didn't work. The results of talking with Mason are still to be determined.

At this point, the Ravens are running out of options and running out of time.

They could either hope for the best and stick with their current group this season or delve back into the shallow pool of free agents looking for a job. That group includes receivers Matt Jones, Amani Toomer, Joe Horn and Marvin Harrison.

Horn, 37, is the only player in the group to date that Baltimore has reportedly contacted. Any trade for an impact receiver seems unlikely.

Looking back, it is still surprising that Baltimore did not take a receiver in any round of the NFL draft in April. It was the thinnest position on the team entering the offseason, and now, thanks to a few surprises, the situation has only gotten worse for the Ravens.