NFL Nation: Reggie Kelly

AFC North union reps

March, 3, 2011
3/03/11
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Here are the player reps for each AFC North team, according to the NFLPA:

Baltimore Ravens: WR Derrick Mason

Alternates: CB Chris Carr, C Matt Birk

Skinny: Mason is one of the most experienced and outspoken players on the Ravens. Therefore he fits great in this role. Carr and Birk are also two great alternatives from Baltimore.

Cincinnati Bengals: LT Andrew Whitworth

Alternates: G Bobbie Williams, TE Reggie Kelly

Skinny: This trio comprises Cincinnati's locker room leaders. Whitworth has taken an increased role and is usually the one who briefs the rest of the Bengals on player issues. Williams and Kelly are both elder statesmen and combine for 25 years of NFL experience.

Cleveland Browns: TE Robert Royal

Alternates: OT Tony Pashos, CB Sheldon Brown, TE Ben Watson

Skinny: Lately the Browns have been a strange team when it comes to union reps. With three regime changes the past few years, it's been a rotating door. Royal was recently released by the Browns, meaning Cleveland will have another player rep next season. All the alternatives spent their first year with the Browns in 2010.

Pittsburgh Steelers: S Ryan Clark

Alternates: WR Antwaan Randle El, LT Max Starks

Skinny: Like Mason, Clark is never afraid to speak his mind. He recently had a lot to say on the pending NFL lockout during Super Bowl week. Randle El and Starks are both intelligent alternatives, as well.

Second-year studs or duds?

May, 18, 2010
5/18/10
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Smith/Robiskie/KrugerGetty Images/US PresswireSecond-year players Andre Smith, Brian Robiskie and Paul Kruger need to step it up this season or risk getting passed over.
Before free agency and the "win-now" mentality that dominates today's NFL, there was a time when teams could groom players for several years before they finally hit the field.

Those days are a distant memory. With coaches and general managers being hired and fired regularly, the learning curve for young players is shorter than ever in the NFL.

Many get one "redshirt" season to struggle in their rookie year before it's time to produce. If not, teams usually move on to the next player who can help.

With that said, here are seven second-year players in the AFC North who need to become studs for their respective teams this season.

Smith
Smith
1. Andre Smith, OT, Cincinnati Bengals

2009 draft status: First round

Analysis: Cincinnati recently made various upgrades to its skill positions on offense. But one of the biggest additions this year could be a healthy and productive Andre Smith. The Bengals swept the AFC North in 2009 with little impact from their No. 6 overall pick. A broken foot sidelined Smith for 10 games until he was healthy enough to contribute mostly as a backup later in the year. Additional foot surgery has kept Smith from doing team drills this offseason, but he is optimistic that his foot problems will soon be a thing of the past. With the Bengals expected to air it out more this year, quarterback Carson Palmer could use the additional pass protection.

Stud/dud importance rating (scale of 1 to 10): 9.5

Robiskie
Robiskie
2. Brian Robiskie, WR, Cleveland Browns

2009 draft status: Second round

Analysis: The Browns desperately need someone (anyone?) to step up at wide receiver this year. Last year's leading receiver was Mohamed Massaquoi, who caught only 34 passes. This presents a golden opportunity for Robiskie, who had only seven receptions for 106 yards in his rookie year. Robiskie entered the NFL with a reputation of being one of the draft's most NFL-ready players, but he struggled to fit in with Cleveland's offensive scheme. Cleveland quarterback Jake Delhomme will need someone to throw to next season. This is Robiskie's time to step up.

Stud/dud importance rating: 8

Kruger
Kruger
3. Paul Kruger, DE/OLB, Baltimore Ravens

2009 draft status: Second round

Analysis: Kruger didn't contribute much until late last season. His inability to play on special teams only highlighted the fact that he wasn't on the field for most of the year. The drafting of pass-rush specialist Sergio Kindle puts Kruger in an odd spot this season. The Ravens were not expecting Kindle to be on the board in the second round, but they took a dynamic prospect who could potentially fill the role Baltimore's coaching staff once had in mind for Kruger. The Ravens are trying to figure out how Kruger can best assist the team in his second season and there has been some discussion of him adding weight to help more as a defensive end.

Stud/dud importance rating: 7.5

Hood
Hood
4. Ziggy Hood, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers

2009 draft status: First round

Analysis: Hood had a typical rookie year for the Steelers. On a veteran-laden team, he was able to get his feet wet in the defensive-line rotation without the pressure of being a starter. Hood played in all 16 games as a reserve and recorded eight tackles, one sack and two passes defensed. Barring injury, Hood will remain a backup this year but still needs to increase his production. Ideally, Hood will be able to earn more snaps and be able to keep starting defensive ends Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith fresh in the trenches.

Stud/dud importance rating: 7

Veikune
Veikune
5. David Veikune, LB, Browns

2009 draft status: Second round

Analysis: Ten games, zero tackles. That is not a good stat line for any rookie, let alone a second-round pick who arrived in Cleveland with decent expectations. Veikune had a forgettable rookie year that included struggling to learn the NFL game and eventually being passed over for playing time by fellow rookie (and Cleveland's fourth-round pick) Kaluka Maiava. The Browns added veterans Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong this offseason to fill key roles at linebacker. That means it's even more important for Veikune to be ready to show Cleveland's coaching staff what he can do when his number is called.

Stud/dud importance rating: 5

Webb
Webb
6. Lardarius Webb, CB, Ravens

2009 draft status: Third round

Analysis: Webb had a solid rookie year for the Ravens. He contributed on special teams and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup before a knee injury ended his season. That same knee injury is a cause for concern this season. Webb was hurt so late in the year that it's questionable whether he will be ready for the start of training camp or even Week 1 of the regular season. Webb recently began running, which is good progress. If healthy, Webb could be a starter in a Baltimore secondary that has struggled in recent years. A healthy and productive second season for Webb would put a lot of those concerns to rest.

Stud/dud importance rating: 8.5

Coffman
Coffman
7. Chase Coffman, TE, Bengals

2009 draft status: Third round

Analysis: Despite Cincinnati recently drafting tight end Jermaine Gresham in the first round, the team could still benefit from a healthy Coffman. Gresham and Coffman, who didn't play a game in the regular season last year, could be two additional weapons in the passing game that Cincinnati didn't have last season. Most project Gresham to beat out Coffman for a starting job. The Bengals also re-signed veteran tight end Reggie Kelly, who is one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL. That probably leaves a limited amount of playing time for Coffman, who has to make the most of his opportunities.

Stud/dud importance rating: 5

AFC North: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
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Baltimore Ravens

Potential unrestricted free agents: DL Justin Bannan, DL Dwan Edwards, CB Corey Ivy, WR Derrick Mason, TE L.J. Smith, WR David Tyree, CB Frank Walker, WR Kelley Washington

Potential restricted free agents: OT Jared Gaither, K Billy Cundiff, S Dawan Landry, CB Fabian Washington, P Sam Koch, OG Chris Chester, QB John Beck, QB Troy Smith, OT Tony Moll, FB Le'Ron McClain, LB Prescott Burgess, WR Mark Clayton, WR Demetrius Williams

Franchise tag: None

What to expect: The Ravens have a ton of quality free agents. It will be interesting because Baltimore is the only division team which has to abide by the "Final Eight Plan" for making the divisional playoffs. This will restrict Baltimore from making a lot of moves. Therefore, expect the team to keep most of its key restricted free agents while trying to explore the trade market. On the unrestricted side, the Ravens are negotiating with receiver Derrick Mason and are expected to keep him. But two players who could get some interest in the open market are defensive linemen Dwan Edwards and Justin Bannan. Baltimore likes both players but could lose at least one.

Cincinnati Bengals

Potential unrestricted free agents: K Shayne Graham, FB Jeremi Johnson, RB Larry Johnson, DT Tank Johnson, TE Reggie Kelly, OG Bobbie Williams, S Roy Williams, TE J.P. Foschi

Potential restricted free agents: LB Brandon Johnson, LB Rashad Jeanty, OL Evan Mathis, C Kyle Cook, DE Frostee Rucker, CB David Jones, LB Abdul Hodge, QB Jordan Palmer, TE Daniel Coats, DT Shaun Smith

Franchise tag: None

What to expect: The Bengals have yet to announce their tenders, so this list could change by Thursday evening. But traditionally they are not big spenders in free agency and will stay true to that even with an uncapped year. Cincinnati could make one or two decent outside signings that may help the team. Finding a receiver would be the most likely target. The most interesting in-house name is offensive guard Bobbie Williams, who likely will test the market. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer also would like to keep veteran Roy Williams and Tank Johnson. But the team hasn't made a major push for either player before they're let loose Friday.

Cleveland Browns

Potential unrestricted free agents: WR Mike Furrey, TE Michael Gaines, OG Rex Hadnot, CB Hank Poteat, OL Ryan Tucker, OG Billy Yates

Potential restricted free agents: RB Jerome Harrison, LB D'Qwell Jackson, FB Lawrence Vickers, S Brodney Pool, S Abram Elam, DE Matt Roth

Franchise tag: None

What to expect: Cleveland has the money to spend and the biggest talent deficit. So look for the Browns to attempt to make up ground in free agency. Major names like defensive end Julius Peppers and tailback Thomas Jones have been mentioned as possibilities for Cleveland, but that remains to be seen. Internally, the Browns should be interested in keeping Harrison and Vickers in their backfield. Jackson also has value. None of their unrestricted players are priorities for the team and will be allowed to hit free agency.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Potential unrestricted free agents: QB Charlie Batch, LB Rocky Boiman, S Tyrone Carter, S Ryan Clark, DE Nick Eason, WR Joey Galloway, DE Travis Kirschke, RB Willie Parker, CB Deshea Townsend , FB Carey Davis, OG Darnell Stapleton

Potential restricted free agents: OT Willie Colon, CB William Gay, P Daniel Sepulveda, TE Matt Spaeth

Franchise tag: K Jeff Reed

What to expect: The Steelers are pretty predictable. Pittsburgh intends to keep all of its restricted free agents, get a long-term deal complete with Reed, who has the franchise tag, and let nearly all of their unrestricted free agents test the market. The exception is Clark, who the Steelers targeted as a priority but has yet to reach a long-term extension before Friday's deadline. Negotiations have been ongoing and should go to the final hour to decide whether both sides can come to an agreement or allow Clark to test the market.

Free agency: AFC North

February, 15, 2010
2/15/10
1:00
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AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the AFC North.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Baltimore Ravens

Mason
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireThe Ravens' already-thin receiving corps will take a big hit if Derrick Mason retires.
Unrestricted free agents: DL Justin Bannan, K Billy Cundiff, DL Dwan Edwards, CB Corey Ivy, WR Derrick Mason, TE L.J. Smith, WR David Tyree, CB Frank Walker, WR Kelley Washington

Key figures: Derrick Mason is contemplating retirement. But if he wants to play, the Ravens have every intention of keeping their leading receiver. Look for Baltimore also to make a push for another significant addition at receiver to assist the development of budding quarterback Joe Flacco. Sleeper players on this list include the two defensive linemen: Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards. The Ravens like both players and will probably make a push to keep at least one on the roster. Baltimore also lacks cornerback depth and might elect to bring back Frank Walker, despite his penchant for giving up big plays and committing penalties.

Cincinnati Bengals

Unrestricted free agents: K Shayne Graham, FB Jeremi Johnson, RB Larry Johnson, DT Tank Johnson, TE Reggie Kelly, DT Shaun Smith, OG Bobbie Williams, S Roy Williams

Key figures: Bobbie Williams is an interesting name. He’s one of Cincinnati’s most consistent offensive linemen over the last several years, but he turns 34 in September. Kicker Shayne Graham, who was franchised last season, had a solid career in Cincinnati. But he missed kicks in big spots, potentially ending his run with the Bengals. Running back Larry Johnson was third string in Cincinnati and should get more playing time elsewhere in 2010.

Cleveland Browns

Unrestricted free agents: WR Mike Furrey, TE Michael Gaines, OG Rex Hadnot, CB Hank Poteat, OL Ryan Tucker, OG Billy Yates

Key figures: This is not an impressive list as most of Cleveland's key free agents -- such as Jerome Harrison, Lawrence Vickers and D'Qwell Jackson -- are restricted. Mike Furrey is a high-character player that coach Eric Mangini likes on his football team, and he might be retained. The remaining players on this list likely will hit the open market. The Browns have an interesting decision to make with Harrison, who led the team in rushing after a tremendous second half of the 2009 season. Harrison could garner some interest as a restricted free agent if the Browns do not offer a high enough tender.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Unrestricted free agents: QB Charlie Batch, LB Rocky Boiman, S Tyrone Carter, S Ryan Clark, DE Nick Eason, WR Joey Galloway, NT Casey Hampton, DE Travis Kirschke, RB Willie Parker, K Jeff Reed, CB Deshea Townsend

Key figures: The Steelers are aiming to keep most of their key veterans, while infusing some youth through the draft. All indications are the team will offer extensions to safety Ryan Clark and kicker Jeff Reed. Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton is the biggest name on this list. But he's a strong candidate for the franchise tag, because there is no full-time replacement on the roster. This offseason probably will mark the end of tailback Willie Parker's tenure in Pittsburgh. Parker, 29, helped lead the Steelers to two Super Bowl wins during his career. But various ailments since initially breaking his leg in 2007 hampered his production.

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