AFC North: trade

Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC North: Morning take: Roethlisberger looks ready for the regular season. He will have two weeks to rest, while backups Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch compete for the No. 2 role.
Morning take: This has been a great year for Hillis, who is on the cover of "Madden NFL 12." There are concerns about his durability. But there's no question he's one of the top players on the team.
Morning take: I like the battle at running back between Jalen Parmele and rookie Anthony Allen. Both probably can help as backups. But only one will make the 53-man roster.
  • Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson and new corner Kelly Jennings are out for Thursday's preseason finale against the Indianapolis Colts.
Morning take: Benson has been out of town resolving his legal issues and probably doesn’t need to take the pounding anyway. Jennings could use the work but it’s too soon after just getting traded.

AFC North Stock Watch

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
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Let's see who's falling and rising after Week 3 of the preseason.

Falling

1. Cleveland Browns' ball security: The Browns were efficient for the most part during the first two weeks of the preseason. But something got into this team in last week's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Cleveland was sloppy and turnover-prone in Week 3. The Browns fumbled three times (lost two on special teams), and quarterback Colt McCoy threw an interception to Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel. The Browns don't have enough talent to overcome so many mistakes in the regular season. The Browns need to get back to playing smart, mistake-free football.

[+] EnlargeTorrey Smith
AP Photo/Matt RourkeRavens second-round pick Torrey Smith is still adjusting to the NFL game.
2. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens receiver: So far Smith doesn't appear ready to contribute right away to the Ravens. The rookie second-round pick has suffered some early drops and is thinking too much on the field. The hesitancy also is taking away Smith's biggest asset, which is his speed. Receivers often take time to adjust to the NFL. Smith has shown a few flashes but still has a ways to go.

3. Adam Jones, Cincinnati Bengals cornerback: When a significant trade is made in the NFL, that often means the team isn't confident with the player(s) currently on the roster. That's likely the case with the health of Jones, who continues to rehab from two offseason neck surgeries. The Bengals acquired former Seattle Seahawks corner Kelly Jennings this week. Jones missed all of training camp and the preseason. The Bengals were hoping Jones could make it back for Week 1. But Jones could be a candidate for the physically unable to perform list (PUP).

Rising

1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver: Brown exploded against the Atlanta Falcons last week. He recorded four receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, Brown has been the most impressive AFC North player in the preseason, according to our recent poll. He’s the favorite to land Pittsburgh’s No. 3 receiver role.

2. Tyrod Taylor, Baltimore Ravens quarterback: Taylor is another player whose stock continues to rise. The rookie had another solid outing against the Washington Redskins. Taylor threw for 125 yards and one touchdown and he led the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. The Ravens haven't officially named their No. 2 quarterback. But Taylor is making a very strong case.

3. Crezdon Butler, Steelers cornerback: Butler made a big impression on Pittsburgh's coaching staff with nine tackles and a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown against Atlanta. The Steelers need answers in their secondary before their Week 1 showdown against Baltimore. Starters Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden have been out with injuries. Younger players like Butler and Keenan Lewis need to step up.

Bengals trade for CB Kelly Jennings

August, 29, 2011
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The Cincinnati Bengals made another trade, acquiring former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Kelly Jennings. Cincinnati shipped defensive tackle Clinton McDonald to Seattle.

Here are some thoughts on the move:
  • Jennings is fast, and that's the most important part of this deal. Cincinnati lacks speed on defense and in the secondary. The Bengals lost their best pure athlete in Johnathan Joseph in free agency. Jennings can be the speedster in the secondary Cincinnati needs.
  • Jennings is a former first-round pick with a lot of starting experience. Therefore, he can step in if Leon Hall or Nate Clements is injured. Cincinnati doesn't have a lot of experience on its bench behind the starters. Adam Jones is a former starter but is out with a neck injury.
  • You also wonder what this means for Jones. The Bengals traded for an experienced veteran less than two weeks before the regular season. That could be a sign they're not optimistic about Jones' chances early in the season. Jones had a second neck surgery in June. He may be a candidate for the physically unable to perform list (PUP) to start the season.
The New York Giants have set the bounty for defensive end Osi Umenyiora -- and it starts with a first-round draft pick.

Are the Baltimore Ravens willing to go that high? I would be surprised.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome values his draft picks, especially those in the first round. Also, Baltimore would have to give Umenyiora a substantial raise, which is why he's unhappy with the Giants in the first place. The combo seems a bit much for the Ravens.

But it's New York's job to get the highest bid possible for Umenyiora. Pass-rushing specialists do not grow on trees, and the Ravens know that better than anyone. The team had just 27 sacks in 16 games last season.

Last week we mentioned Baltimore as a great landing spot for Umenyiora, and if the Ravens can get him for anything less than a first-rounder, I think it's worth pursuing.
Two months ago the AFC North blog examined the trade value of Carson Palmer, who threatened to retire and says he will never play another down for the Cincinnati Bengals. With several teams still desperate for quarterbacks post-draft, we determined the value was still good enough for Cincinnati to make a move.

But two months later, there is a reasonable chance Palmer's value might have decreased. Teams will have very little time to work out any blockbuster trades once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. Free agency will take the priority, as well as signing hundreds of draft picks around the league and rookie free agents.

It's possible Palmer's value no longer matters at this point. The Bengals remain steadfast in saying they have no plans to trade their franchise quarterback. But if Cincinnati does have a change of heart this summer, it would be in the team's best interest to let it be known ASAP.

Otherwise, quarterback-needy teams will move fast to fill those positions and no one will be left knocking at Cincinnati's door.
Carson Palmer & Mike BrownUS PresswireMike Brown, right, has repeatedly said the Bengals will not grant Carson Palmer's trade request.
Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown says he refuses to trade quarterback Carson Palmer. Brown usually sticks to his edicts. So it would be surprising if the Bengals have a change of heart once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

But that doesn't mean Cincinnati is doing the right thing. In fact, the Bengals are completely mismanaging the situation, and not trading Palmer will go down as another awful decision for this downtrodden franchise, which hasn't won a playoff game in 20 years.

Palmer is serious about his trade demands and appears willing to retire. But even if Palmer returned, having a disgruntled starting quarterback isn't an ideal situation for any team.

Here are seven reasons the Bengals are making a big mistake by not trading Palmer:

1. His value is high

Analysis: Several quarterback-needy teams would love to have Palmer under center this year and would be willing to give up solid value. Cincinnati should be able to get at least a second-round pick and perhaps an additional pick for Palmer, which would help the franchise and is better than having a player sit at home. Palmer is 31 and may have only a few productive years left. So with every passing year Palmer's trade value decreases. The Bengals made this mistake before with receiver Chad Ochocinco. Three years ago, they could have traded Ochocinco to the Washington Redskins for a first-round pick and another conditional pick that could have become a first-rounder based on production. Instead, Brown refused to trade an unhappy Ochocinco and now the team is stuck with an aging receiver and his $6 million salary. Cincinnati is expected to release Ochocinco this summer and get nothing for him. The Bengals are refusing to learn from their mistakes.

2. Why keep an unhappy quarterback?

Analysis: The quarterback position is the most important in football. Do you want a leader whose heart isn't really into it? Only the Bengals would answer yes to this type of question. Despite Palmer being adamant that he wants nothing to do with Cincinnati, ownership and coach Marvin Lewis said they would still welcome Palmer back with open arms. Even Bengals players such as running back Cedric Benson and defensive lineman Tank Johnson said it's a bad idea to have an unhappy Palmer leading the team. Palmer is mentally done with Cincinnati and physically he hasn't put in the work to be with his teammates. If he did choose to return it would cause a media circus and could be bad for team chemistry.

3. It's time to rebuild

Analysis: Last November we said it was time to blow up the Bengals. The Palmer-Ochocinco-Marvin Lewis era ran its course in Cincinnati, and the reality is that window is closed and the trio will never win a Super Bowl together. Currently, all three are still with the organization, although Ochocinco is expected to be released. Cincinnati also should move on without Palmer. The Bengals were a 4-12 team last year with Palmer. Cincinnati is rebuilding with younger players and will not be a contender in 2011, whether Palmer returns or not. Palmer also knows this, which is why he wants out. If Palmer believed the Bengals were good enough to make the playoffs and a run at the Super Bowl, he would not have sold his house and demanded a trade. At this stage of his career, Palmer is not good enough to carry a team to a championship by himself, particularly a young team like the Bengals with a lot of holes. Cincinnati's draft showed it is looking to rebuild. But the Bengals have to cut ties with Palmer to complete the process.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/David KohlThe Bengals drafted TCU quarterback Andy Dalton with the 35th overall pick in April's draft.
4. Bengals drafted Andy Dalton

Analysis: If the Bengals didn't have a viable option at quarterback, I would understand the team's urge to keep Palmer under contract. But in April they spent a high second-round pick on Dalton, who was the Bengals' desired target in the draft to replace Palmer. Cincinnati is no longer stuck between a rock (Jordan Palmer) and a hard place (Dan LeFevour) at quarterback. The Bengals have a confident rookie who could be the long-term solution. Even if Palmer returned, he would be grooming Dalton for the future. So why not start the Dalton era now and get him as much experience as possible?

5. Palmer is on the decline

Analysis: Behind closed doors, the Bengals' organization knows Palmer has been on a steady decline for several years. Injuries, age and perhaps some lost confidence have made Palmer a shell of his former self. In his prime (2005-07), Palmer was the prototypical pocket passer who stood tall in the pocket, made great decisions and had one of the strongest and most accurate arms in the NFL. Now Palmer makes too many poor decisions (20 interceptions in 2010) and has clearly lost some zip and accuracy. Palmer's passer rating has dropped from 101.1 in 2005 to 82.4 in 2010 -- a decline of nearly 20 points. But it's easier for opposing teams to see the good in Palmer, because even on the decline, he's still better than half of the league's starting quarterbacks.

6. Palmer makes $11.5 million this season

Analysis: Palmer, who is under contract until 2014, will make a team-high $11.5 million this season. By trading Palmer, the Bengals would save a ton of money and potentially cap space if there is a salary cap in the new CBA. Cincinnati could allocate that money to help other areas of the team. Perhaps the Bengals can spend some of the $11.5 million to re-sign Benson and free-agent cornerback Johnathan Joseph. Cincinnati also could go after a quality free agent or two to help the pass rush or offensive line. Palmer is no longer an $11.5 million player. Therefore, it's baffling why the Bengals are so eager to pay him that amount.

7. Precedents are overrated

Analysis: A major reason the Bengals won't trade Palmer is because it sets a bad precedent for other unhappy players who might want out in the future. This kind of thinking is overrated and should never get in the way of helping the future of the franchise. If Palmer kicks and screams that he wants out and the Bengals get good value in return, so what? What's wrong with both sides being happy? Instead, Bengals ownership seems more focused on winning the staredown with Palmer, even if it hurts the team in the long run. The best way to prevent unhappy players from leaving is to develop a winning culture. The Bengals' way of doing business for the past 20 years hasn't worked, and it's time to try something different. Instead of holding onto the past, Cincinnati should move forward and do what's best for the long-term success of the franchise and trade Palmer.
Here are the latest happenings Wednesday evening in the AFC North:
Despite newfound speculation that the Cincinnati Bengals may be willing to trade franchise quarterback Carson Palmer after landing their preferred target -- Andy Dalton -- in the NFL draft, owner Mike Brown doused those fires Monday at the NFL's Spring Meetings in Indianapolis.

Brown reiterated that the team doesn't plan on trading Palmer this offseason and they hope the quarterback will return to Cincinnati. If not, Brown said Palmer will be forced to retire.

"He's important to us. He's a very fine player, and we do want him to come back," Brown said, according to NFL.com. "If he chooses not to, he'd retire. And we would go with Andy Dalton, the younger player we drafted, who's a good prospect. Ideally, we'd have both of them. That'd be the best way to go forward. If we don't have Carson, we'll go with Andy."

This is consistent with what the team has said all offseason. I'm not surprised Brown is holding firm, because that's the team's history when dealing with disgruntled players. But it still baffles me why the Bengals wouldn't at least listen to offers after the lockout while the value remains high for Palmer.

Perhaps a desperate team could blow the Bengals away with high draft picks that could greatly help the future of the franchise. But if the Bengals are keeping the door completely shut simply to prove a point to Palmer, they will never know what can be gained from this otherwise brutal situation.
The trade market in the NFL is often set by precedents. Therefore, the AFC North blog tapped into ESPN's Stats & Information to get a sense for what the Cincinnati Bengals could get this offseason for quarterback Carson Palmer.

Cincinnati's ownership said publicly the team has no interest in trading Palmer, who threatened to retire despite being owed $11.5 million in 2011. But the Bengals have since drafted former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, who is ready to assume the starting role this upcoming season. That at least opens the door for the Bengals to have a change of heart if a quarterback-needy team provides an offer for Palmer that Cincinnati can't refuse.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
James Lang/US PresswireRecent quarterback trades suggest the Bengals might be able to get a second-round pick if they decided to trade Carson Palmer.
So what can the Bengals expect in the open market? Here is a recap of recent offseason trades involving quarterbacks:

  • April 5, 2010: Donovan McNabb from Philadelphia to Washington for Redskins' second-round pick in 2010.
  • April 21, 2010: Byron Leftwich from Tampa to Pittsburgh for the Steelers' seventh-round pick in 2010.
  • April 24, 2010: Jason Campbell from Washington to Oakland for a fourth-round pick in 2012.
  • Feb. 27, 2009: Sage Rosenfels from Houston to Minnesota for Vikings' fourth-round selection in 2009.
  • Feb. 28, 2009: Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel from New England to Kansas City for Chiefs' second-round pick in 2009.
  • April 3, 2009: Jay Cutler and fifth-round pick in 2009 from Denver to Chicago for Kyle Orton, Bears' first-round pick in 2009 and 2010 and a third-round pick in 2009.
  • March 22, 2007: Matt Schaub and Atlanta's first-round pick in 2007 to Houston for the Texans' first- and second-round pick in 2007 and a second-round pick in 2008.

Palmer, 31, falls somewhere within this group of quarterbacks at this stage of his career. He's 31, past his prime and probably not as good as Schaub or Cutler. But he's certainly better than some on this list, such as Campbell, Rosenfels and Leftwich.

Based on recent history, I think it's reasonable for the Bengals to expect a deal similar to McNabb's or Cassel's. The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots both got quality second-round picks for trading their veteran quarterbacks. Most teams would probably offer the Bengals future draft picks for collateral, as well.

The Atlanta Falcons got a first-round pick by dealing Matt Schaub several years ago. But Atlanta also swapped its first-round pick with the Houston Texans, which the Bengals wouldn't be interested in doing.

Although the chances aren't great, Cincinnati's best shot of landing a first-round pick for Palmer would be for several teams to get into a bidding war. The Titans (Jake Locker), Vikings (Christian Ponder) and 49ers (Colin Kaepernick) all drafted QBs high, which means those teams are either out of the running or won't be desperate to give up too much for Palmer in a trade.

So a future second-round pick is the most likely option if the Bengals decide to change their stance on Palmer.
Here are the latest happenings Thursday evening in the AFC North:
Everyone in our community is excited following the conclusion of the 2011 NFL draft.

On paper, all four teams did well. But we won't know for sure until these rookies hit the field.

With that said, here are some interesting comments from AFC North blog readers following the 2010 NFL draft.

Enjoy.

Cleveland Browns
  • "Somebody tell me why I should like this T.J. Ward pick? Don't get it. I know we need a safety, but who is this guy?"
  • "I liked Taylor Mays a lot better. He's much bigger and much faster. Probably the best all-around athlete in the draft. You can't teach size or speed, but you can teach a kid how to cover better and how to tackle better. Mays' ceiling is infinite, while Ward's is not."
  • "Love this pick. Montario Hardesty runs mean and nasty like Jamal Lewis did. Very solid back, better than Jahvid Best."
Pittsburgh Steelers
  • "I knew Kyle Wilson was the real deal. He jumps off the screen the way he attacks and plays downhill all the time. I'm still irked he's not gonna be wearing black and gold. Maurkice Pouncey will be good, I hope. Because if he isn't, I'll be ticked if Wilson is as good as advertised."
  • "I was just doing some research, and Jonathan Dwyer in the sixth round? What an unbelievable steal."
  • "Essentially by trading a fifth-round pick for Bryant McFadden and Arizona's sixth-rounder, which was used for Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers traded Santonio Holmes for McFadden and Dwyer. I love it."
Cincinnati Bengals
  • "Jordan Shipley won't contribute immediately. I keep harping on this, but we're gonna see how much we really missed here with Eric Decker."
  • "I'll say this and then I have to go: Brandon Ghee will be a star for the Bengals."
  • "The Cincinnati Bengals now have the deepest receiving corps in the league by far."
  • "I don't know who your team is but they can't beat the Bengals' receiving corps. Maybe when they make cuts in training camp your team can pickup Bengals' scraps."
Baltimore Ravens
  • "Sergio Kindle will start in more Pro Bowls than Tim Tebow will start regular-season games."
  • "The only beef I have with the Browns' draft is passing on Sergio Kindle in favor of T.J. Ward. This one will come back to bite 'em. They could have taken Ward later on. Kindle is going to be a force and Ozzie Newsome will be dubbed a genius the way he has handled the draft over the years."
  • "Kindle and Terrell Suggs rushing from either side while Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody clog up the middle. It's gonna be nice."
  • "I think our division had the best draft of all divisions and the competition in our division will once again be great. The Ravens look like they will win the division and I am going to say the Browns will surprise some people this year. Depending on how long Ben Roethlisberger's suspension turns out to be either 4 or 6 games, Pitt might be third or maybe last in the division this year."

Remember last year?
The Baltimore Ravens reportedly are seeking more than an apology from the Chicago Bears following a trade snafu that cost Baltimore one slot in the first round of the NFL draft.

According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Baltimore is expected to contact the league Friday to try to get the fourth-round pick Chicago agreed upon during the botched trade. Both teams were required to call in the trade and the Ravens did their part. But the Bears dropped the ball and forgot to make the call, causing the trade to fall through and the Ravens to miss their pick.

The Kansas City Chiefs quickly turned in their card and drafted University of Pittsburgh receiver Jon Baldwin at No. 26. The Ravens took their target anyway in Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith at No. 27 but remain upset with the chain of events.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo made a public apology to the Ravens Thursday night. But chances are, they don't want to give up an extra draft pick if the trade wasn't made official by the NFL. The Bears still made their selection in their original slot at No. 29 and would prefer to sweep everything under the rug and simply move on.

If you're going by the honor code, the Ravens deserve the pick. The two sides came to an agreement and the Bears were responsible for screwing it up. But the NFL draft is big business where honor doesn't always apply.

After months of hype, Day 1 of the NFL draft is finally in the books. We now have four new players in the division who are expected to make an immediate impact with their respective teams.

But which AFC North club had the best first-round pick Thursday night? That is this week's "Poll Friday" question in conjunction with ESPN's SportsNation.

Was it the Cincinnati Bengals? They turned down a significant trade offer from the Atlanta Falcons to keep the No. 4 overall pick and selected Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green. He is expected to replace Chad Ochocinco as the No. 1 target in Cincinnati.

What about the Cleveland Browns? They accepted Atlanta's generous trade package, which included five draft picks over the next two years and eventually selected Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor to anchor the middle of their 4-3 defense. Did the Browns have the best first day?

The Baltimore Ravens missed a spot after a trade went awry with the Chicago Bears but they eventually took Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith at No. 27. Smith is talented but comes with character concerns. But is he the best pick in the division?

Or did the reigning AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers get the most for their value at No. 31 by selecting Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward? The Steelers are good at capitalizing on prospects other teams miss at the end of rounds. Is Heyward Pittsburgh's next gem?

Cast your vote on which AFC North team had the best first round Thursday night and share your thoughts in the comment section below. We'd love to hear everyone's honest, homer-free assessment of the first round.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers held their annual pre-draft news conference at the team's training facility on Monday.

As expected, Pittsburgh didn't reveal its draft plans. But director of football operations Kevin Colbert did say the Steelers will be open to trading the No. 31 overall pick in the first round this week.

"The pro scouts will be going through their calls to touch base with every team and see who's interested in trading up and trading down," Colbert explained. "We always tell them we can go either way, and we will depending on who's still available at the top of that first round we might want to go up and get. ... But if there's offers for our picks, we will certainly look at the possibility of going down."

If the Steelers opt to trade in the first round, history suggests the Steelers could be more likely to move up to get a player they covet. The Steelers have held a first-round pick every year since Colbert took over in Pittsburgh in 2000. Where Pittsburgh currently sits at No. 31, a trade down would end that streak in the first round.

Colbert has moved up in the past to draft players such as safety Troy Polamalu (2003) and receiver Santonio Holmes (2006). But who are some players the Steelers may feel are worth trading up for this year?

Could it be Florida guard/center Mike Pouncey, who is the twin brother of Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice? What about a cornerback, since that is Pittsburgh's biggest need with top corner Ike Taylor being a pending free agent? Offensive tackles also are valuable in the draft.

After an uneventful offseason, we will get draft answers on the Steelers and other AFC North teams starting on Thursday night.

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