AFC North: Zac Dysert

The wake-up call is being posted a little later than usual. It's not because I had a long weekend, although I can say I had a quieter one than Rolando McClain, whose days as a Baltimore Raven may be numbered. The NFL draft is coming up in a few days, and AFC North blog headquarters will shift to Cleveland on Thursday. There will also be a blogger mock draft this week. I will provide more details on that later. Here's the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: General manager Ozzie Newsome has high expectations for Terrell Suggs after the 30-year-old linebacker dealt will two major injuries (torn Achilles and biceps) last year. “I expect Sizz to come back and play at the level he played at in 2011,” Newsome told the team's official website. “I think going through that injury, fighting his way back, helped mature him as a person, helped him grow as a person." Suggs was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. Newsome also believes Suggs will step in the roles left by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. “[He will] provide leadership for us that we need to be able to continue to play defense the way we want to play here in Baltimore," he said.

BENGALS: Bengals players are happy that former Steelers linebacker James Harrison is playing with them instead of against them. Harrison signed a two-year deal with the Bengals on Friday. "I think it's an awesome signing," defensive tackle Domata Peko told the team's official website. "You know we have a great defense here already, so to add a person like that to our defense is awesome. He brings a lot of toughness, experience and swagger. We just got better as a team today." In case you missed it Friday, here's my column on Harrison signing with the Bengals.

STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac puts three quarterbacks on the Steelers' radar if they're looking for a developmental quarterback in the third round or later: Tennessee's Tyler Bray (the Steelers reportedly had dinner with him before his pro day), Florida State's EJ Manuel (the team spent a lot of team meeting with him last month, according to the paper) and Miami of Ohio's Zac Dysert (who broke most of Ben Roethlisberger's passing records at the school). According to Dulac, if the Steelers don't draft a quarterback, Charlie Batch would likely be welcomed back. Bruce Gradkowski was signed to be Roethlisberger's backup earlier this offseason.

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw now questions the appeal of Jimmy Haslam being a more hands-on owner than Randy Lerner even if he is found innocent of the federal investigation into his family-run company. "Pleading ignorance in a rebate scam calls that into question and frames every decision he has made in Berea to date and all the ones to come," Shaw wrote. "He was supposed to be the hands-on owner Lerner wasn't, bringing buckets of sweat equity to the task. That -- and enforced accountability throughout the organization -- were supposedly what made Pilot Flying J such a success after all."
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week’s topic: How each AFC North team needs to address the quarterback position.

Baltimore Ravens: The biggest issue with Baltimore is whether it will reach a long-term deal with Joe Flacco by Monday or use the franchise tag on him to keep him off the free-agent market. If the Ravens use the tag, it will likely be the exclusive one to stop Flacco from negotiating with other teams. It's safe to say the Super Bowl MVP will remain the Ravens' starter in 2013. There is more uncertainty with the backup spot. Tyrod Taylor has been Flacco's backup the past two seasons, but there was a sense that Baltimore tried to upgrade the spot when it signed Curtis Painter last offseason. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Ravens used a late-round pick on a quarterback or signed a veteran free agent to compete with Taylor again. The backup quarterback position hasn't been an important spot for the Ravens because Flacco hasn't missed a game in five NFL seasons. UPDATE: The Ravens and Flacco agreed to a long-term deal Friday night.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals can't be happy that Andy Dalton had four interceptions returned for touchdowns last season and flopped in the playoffs for a second consecutive year. But Cincinnati still has confidence in Dalton and isn't expected to bring in anyone who will threaten his hold on the starting job. There is a decision to be made at the No. 2 spot because Bruce Gradkowski is a free agent. The Bengals will probably look to re-sign Gradkowski, who is familiar with Jay Gruden's offense. If the team decides to go in a different direction, the Bengals could add another veteran backup (which has been head coach Marvin Lewis' preference) or use a late-round pick on a quarterback.

Cleveland Browns: This is the one starting quarterback job that is up in the air in the division. The Browns' new regime will have a competition in training camp, but Brandon Weeden is still considered the favorite to remain the starter. There's a chance that the Browns will trade for Patriots backup Ryan Mallett, a rumored favorite of vice president of player personnel Mike Lombardi. Cleveland, though, would prefer not to give up a draft pick after using a second-round one on wide receiver Josh Gordon in last year's supplemental draft. And it doesn't sound as though the Browns intend to draft a quarterback like Geno Smith with the No. 6 overall pick. The Browns can provide some competition for Weeden by signing the Dolphins' Matt Moore or the Saints' Chase Daniel out of a weak free-agent class.

Pittsburgh Steelers: As long as Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy, there's no question that he's the starting quarterback. Roethlisberger, though, hasn't played a full season since 2008, which puts more emphasis on the backup position. This could be the year when the Steelers look for a younger quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds to develop. Zac Dysert, a Miami (Ohio) quarterback like Roethlisberger, is expected to go in the fourth or fifth round. The Steelers went with more experienced backups last season in Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich, both of whom are free agents and whose returns are uncertain. Batch is 38 years old, and Leftwich is not durable. Even if there was a better free-agent backup available, Pittsburgh doesn't have the cap room to sign him.

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