Chat with James Walker
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch. He also covered the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Cavaliers at the Dispatch. Walker grew up in Hyattsville, Md., before attending Temple University, graduating in 2001 with a B.A. in communications and mass media. He resides in the Cleveland area.
Send your questions now and join Walker on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
James Walker (3:58 PM)
Hello everyone. Let's get into another round of AFC North conversation.
eric buffalo,ny [via mobile]
do u think the steelers will really try to resign hampton next year? or draft high on a nt and try to replace him. he is over 30year age.
James Walker (4:00 PM)
The 30 mark in Pittsburgh is never a good thing. The team makes some exceptions to the rule, but I'm not sure Hampton would be one at this point. Another great year in the middle would help.
Chris (Staten Island, NY)
What do you think Cleveland would ask for in a trade for Shaun Rogers? Would a 3rd or 4th round pick do it?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Chris, I don't believe the Browns would move Rogers. He's too good a player and the salary cap hit would be too much. He is worth more than a third or fourth round pick, though. But this is probably a moot point.
What is John St. Clair going to mean to this Cleveland Browns team?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
St. Clair wasn't the best tackle in the NFL last season. A lot of Chicago fans would tell you that. But Kevin Shaffer wasn't great either. The Browns feel they've upgraded at the position. Change was certainly needed there. How much better this change is remains to be seen.
What are the odds that Palmer returns to old form this year, and how much does not having Housh going to hurt Palmer?
James Walker (4:07 PM)
As long as health isn't an issue, Palmer will be fine. He is a very good QB. Houshmandzadeh's absence will change the look of the offense somewhat. Cincinnati wants to get back to the deep ball and not throwing underneath so much. Laveranues Coles and Chad Ocho Cinco could provide that.
Will Ocho Cinco be a factor this year?
James Walker (4:09 PM)
I'm not sure what Ocho Cinco is thinking right now. He's been extremely quiet, and for him that is hard. He may be unhappy in Cincy and won't be a factor at all there. Or he could come back focus and want to play hard. I think he can still be a good WR if he's willing to put the work in again.
I am really sorry to ask this, I still don't know. As far as you know or can speculate, who are the Browns going to go after with the First round? I assume Crabtree? Or would you go defense?
James Walker (4:12 PM)
1. Aaron Curry. 2. Brian Orakpo 3. B.J. Raji. Those are the most likely targets for Cleveland right now.
Glenn Lexington, Kentucky
Hi James, Which of the center prospects do you think would help the Bengals most against the physical defensive lines in the AFC North?
James Walker (4:13 PM)
There are several good centers this year. But I feel Alex Mack of Cal will turn out to be the best of the lot.
Michelle (Altoona, PA)
Do you think there's a chance the Steelers decide to draft the best available player in the first round, rather than drafting for needs? That was fine last year but I really feel like we need depth along both lines and it would be inexcuseable to go a different direction in the first round.
James Walker (4:15 PM)
Very possible, Michelle. Pittsburgh lost just one starter from a Super Bowl winning team. There is really no glaring need, just places they would like to add depth and competition.
Would Mangini/Paoli trade Quinn+more if it meant getting Cutler? Cutler doesn't seem to fit the whole Patriots "system qb" style, but is a great talent.
James Walker (4:17 PM)
I've said from the beginning that everyone needs to forget about the whole "three-team trade" notion. This isn't the NBA. It hasn't happened in football in a long time because it's just too difficult to pull off. Look at the mess/agony/pain it caused Denver.
Ravens brought in Beanie Wells. Last week, you, I, and the rest of the NFL thought that they had no interest in him. Is this just posturing for a possible trade down, or would Ozzie really select him?
James Walker (4:20 PM)
Not really, Jacob. I wouldn't go crazy over rookie visits. I know people care about their teams, but I think it's one of the most overblown aspects of the offseason. Wells, or any top prospect, may visit with 15 teams. It doesn't mean all 15 teams want to draft him.
By the way, James, if Cutler were traded to the Browns, the AFC North QB Rankings for 2009 would look like this: 1. Palmer 2. Cutler 3. Roethlisberger 4. Flacco
James Walker (4:21 PM)
Wow. I'm sure many would disagree with your ranking system.
eric buffalo,ny [via mobile]
how come heath miller doesnt get more respect at te. he actually blocks very well. gonzo,gates,etc just catch balls.
James Walker (4:23 PM)
It's a numbers thing, Eric. Miller is a very good TE because he does everything well. But he will never be asked to catch 80-90 passes in a season like some of his counterparts.
Is Joe Flacco a legit QB?
James Walker (4:26 PM)
I'm pretty high on Flacco, Chauncey. It's pretty obvious that he is physically gifted, but I think he has a great mental makeup to handle the ups and downs of the position.
Do you think I could play in the NFL? If so, what position and would I dominate?
James Walker (4:28 PM)
There is no doubt in my mind that you would be a Pro Bowl WR or TE. I can't imagine the matchup nightmares you would cause opposing coaches.
Eric: Tamaqua PA
Are Limas Sweed and Dallas Baker really going to be the third and fourth reciever for the Steelers? Or are the Steelers going to go after WR in the draft?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
Pittsburgh will take a receiver at some point. I think it's a concern, but not a huge concern. This is a good year to snag a good WR in the second or third rounds.
With a descent draft this year, addressing our biggest needs, is it possible that the Browns could steal one from the Steelers this year? Or should I not get my hopes up for a few more years?
James Walker (4:34 PM)
I've covered the Browns the past four years and they are 0-8 against the Steelers in those games. I've seen every one of them in person, and most were not close. I would err on your prediction until it happens at least once.
Keith (Folsom, CA)
Hi James, good stuff. Do you think the browns defense will be the vanilla version of the 3-4 mangini ran in NY or will Rob Ryan actually give us an aggressive D?
James Walker (4:36 PM)
Ryan attacks. That's in the family DNA. The bigger question is who will have the most fingerprints on the defense: Ryan or Mangini? That will determine Cleveland's style.
Stan (West Des Moines, IA)
Can you just feel the hunger in every question from Browns fans? If the team can ever get its act together, that town will explode.
James Walker (4:38 PM)
The Browns have a great fan base. Everyone knows that. Not many would stick around and stay strong after all Cleveland has been through.
whats the current status with Edwards? If he is traded, where is his most likely destination?
James Walker (4:40 PM)
Only a contender would want Braylon Edwards at this point. He is in the last year of his deal, so teams like Philly and NYG could rent him for a year to see if he gets them a championship. After the season, Edwards will be free to sign with anyone, and he most likely will be looking to play for a winner.
Zach (Baltimore, MD)
What do you think of the Foxworth signing for Baltimore?
James Walker (4:43 PM)
The Ravens got younger and faster at corner, which are always good things. I do wonder if he's physical enough to play in the AFC North. We will see.
jason (charlotte nc)
call me crazy but it seems the bengals are a scat back and run stuffing dt away
James Walker (4:44 PM)
From what, Jason?
Kim (Fort Myers, FL)
How could the Browns trading Rogers affect their salary cap? Isn't the other team responsible for paying a player when he is traded? I'm confused...
James Walker (4:48 PM)
Bonuses drastically impact the salary cap, Kim. Shaun Rogers is only one year into his deal and already earned a huge signing bonus and roster bonus in that span. It's put in place so teams won't release and trade players even more fanatical than they already do.
Eric: Tamaqua PA
Best WR tandem in the AFC North? Ward/Holmes, Coles/Johnson, or Mason/Clayton?
James Walker (4:50 PM)
Edwards/Patten (or Steptoe). Just kidding.
If the ravens draft a receiver high, what do you think of a clayton, drafted receiver and demetrius williams 3 wide set for the future?
James Walker (4:52 PM)
I haven't seen enough of Williams and Clayton to say they are reliable cogs long term. They have flashed, Clayton more than Williams, but I would like to see more consistency.
John (Fort Myers, FL)
To Eric and Tamaqua- Only one tandem can boast a Super Bowl MVP each...
James Walker (4:54 PM)
John brings up a good point.
PJ Charlotte, NC
What's good JW? if the Browns were able to get a 3rd for DA do you think they would do it at this point?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
What's really good with you, PJ? A third round pick is too low by itself. Maybe if another mid-round pick is thrown in. You have to consider the Browns paid a $5 million bonus a few weeks ago and also will take a huge cap hit. For just a third, it's better to keep him.
Tim Hahn (Baltimore)
Hi James, Where do you think the Ravens will look to in the first round?
James Walker (4:57 PM)
I'm hearing best WR or best available. It sounds like a good plan at No. 26.
James, about D.A. You think a third rounder isn't enough? I would find it hard to believe any team would be willing to pay more considering Byron Leftwich is a toll-free phone-call away for all 32 teams.
James Walker (4:59 PM)
I'm saying it's not enough for the Browns to make the trade. Whether D.A. is worth a third is another debate. But after paying the bonus and accelerating the cap hit, I don't believe a third alone is enough for the Browns to commit to a trade.
rich (dallas, tx)
not in the afc north- but how bout them cowboys?
James Walker (5:02 PM)
They were 2-2 against the AFC North last year. I was disappointed with all that talent.
James--can you tell me who the top 3 guys Cincy is looking at with the 6 pick?
James Walker (5:04 PM)
Ideally, 1. Jason Smith 2. Eugene Monroe. 3.B.J. Raji. The funny thing is, I'm not sure any of these players will be on the board at No. 6.
Demetreus (Baltimore, Maryland)
how good do you thin my ravens gonna do next season?
James Walker (5:05 PM)
The Ravens aren't done. Let's wait until Ozzie Newsome finishes his work with the draft. Then I could give you a better prediction. I like where they are right now, though.
Stringer Bell (Baltimore, MD)
Which AFC North team would win in an all-out brawl?
James Walker (5:09 PM)
I would take the Steelers' defense with me in a dark alley and have no worries in the world. But Haloti Ngata of Baltimore would win a 100-player battle royal.
Mike (North Canton, OH)
will you be surprised if the browns cross the 5 win plateau next season?
James Walker (5:10 PM)
Not at all. Under Mangini, the Browns will not make a lot of silly mistakes that they made last year, particularly at the end of games. Plus the schedule is much easier.
Ken (Akron, OH)
What do you think is the bigger need for the Steelers going into the draft? O-line depth or D-line depth?
James Walker (5:13 PM)
I'd say offensive line. You need five good o-linemen to start a game. You only need three good d-linemen to start in Pittsburgh.
Beau (Hazzard County)
What are the odds Brett Favre suits up as Cleveland's starter?
James Walker (5:15 PM)
Matt (Fayetteville, NC)
Lifelong Browns fan. I keep hearing in these Mock Drafts that the Browns are likely to pick either Raji or Orakpo. If these two players are still available, which one makes more sense with the Browns current defensive scheme and needs?
James Walker (5:18 PM)
Brian Orakpo is a better fit because Eric Mangini needs 3-4 hybrids for his scheme to work. Cleveland also needs a pass rush. Raji doesn't help as much in those areas.
James, love the chats. What are the odds Hines Ward takes less money after next year to guarantee he retires as a Steeler. Can't imagine him in another uniform.
James Walker (5:20 PM)
Although this is the NFL and anything can happen with free agency, I think Ward is about as safe a player as you can find who will stay in one uniform.
What do you think the next transaction in the AFC north will be?
James Walker (5:22 PM)
That's a tough one, Jeremy. I would say the Bengals sign a fullback.
John Boy (Cincinnati)
Who is your favorite player that you've covered? Between the Cavs, Bengals, and Pepe Sanchez, I'm sure there are plenty of options...
James Walker (5:26 PM)
JB, it depends on what you're asking. Some athletes I enjoyed watching play in person like LeBron James. Some I enjoyed talking to, etc. But covering James for the first few years of his career, you knew right away you were watching something great.
John (Fort Myers, FL)
Extra long chat today huh? That's awesome since I get done with work at 6:00. Anyway, here is my question... Other than James Harrison, who is the most important 2010 UFA for the Steelers to get signed?
James Walker (5:28 PM)
Brian (Sanibel Island, FL)
How many more years do you see Dick LeBeau coaching the Steelers defense? You spend a lot of time around the team, so has he given any indication to you or the players that he might consider hanging them up soon? Say it ain't so...
James Walker (5:30 PM)
I can't speak for LeBeau, but I would assume he is on a year-to-year basis. He is coaching in 2009 and probably doesn't know at this very moment if he's coaching in 2010.
James Walker (5:32 PM)
Guys, thanks again for the time. I stayed a little extra this week to get in as many questions as possible. Send any other questions to the AFC North inbox. I will talk to you soon.