Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com AFC North blogger James Walker will stop by to chat about the NFL and what to expect from your team.
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch.
Send your questions now and join James Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. ET!
James Walker (4:30 PM)
Hello, AFC North fans. I know there are a lot of Ravens questions about Derrick Mason, so let's get to those right away.
Hey James, now that Derrick Mason is retired, are the Ravens likely to pursue Boldin or Marshall or go after a free agent like Marvin Harrison or Amani Toomer?
James Walker (4:34 PM)
I think it's more likely that Baltimore tests the free-agent waters. Trades are hard to come by this time of year. From what I'm told, the Broncos are not trading Brandon Marshall. I wrote that three weeks ago. I'm not as sure of Boldin's situation, but it doesn't make much sense for them to move a great player weeks before training camp.
do you think the ravens are going to sign marvin harrison?
James Walker (4:36 PM)
Harrison makes the most sense. He has the ability to fill in and similar possession skills as Derrick Mason. I'm not sure the team reached out to anyone just yet. The Ravens are going all in right now on Terrell Suggs' negotiations and that's the priority for the next 24 hours. But we will have more clarity on their WR target probably later in the week.
Jon (San Diego)
Do you think the Ravens would have drafted differently if they had known about Mason's retirement?
James Walker (4:38 PM)
Absolutely. The Ravens were aware of Willie Anderson's lingering health and traded up to get Michael Oher. Weeks later the rest of the world figured out why. But Baltimore had no idea about Mason's situation. It was something on the mind, but the untimely passing of Steve McNair really made him think about his life situation.
Any wideouts for sale yet??? I'd give up a 1st and 3rd at this point... what r the ravens gonna do?
James Walker (4:40 PM)
A first and third might make some teams reconsider its stance on certain players. But we learned in the offseason that WRs don't go for that rate anymore. That's why you see players like Braylon Edwards and Anquan Boldin not moving. GM Ozzie Newsome really covets his draft picks. Even in this scenario, I'm not sure he sells the farm for that particular position.
James Walker (4:41 PM)
Ok, I hope that covers some key things for Derrick Mason. Let's get to the rest of the division.
Barry (San Diego)
Out here in the heart of Steelers Nation, my question is do you think the Steelers will have an improved running game (potent Parker/Mendenhall combo and cohesive "O" line) to take some pressure off the superb defense, clutch passing game and improved Special Teams. Thanks, James.
James Walker (4:43 PM)
I believe you will see an improved running game in Pittsburgh. But with that offensive line, I'm not sure how much. The fact that the Steelers have a trio of backs in Parker, Mendenhall and Moore should give the team options. But the line needs to come together for them to truly have a great year running the football.
ocho cinco in the house (C- town)
will the Bengals get to choose what color uniform to wear in SB XLIV or does the NFC team have that right?
James Walker (4:46 PM)
I cannot recall Cincinnati Bengals fans being this confident about their team in a long time. It's great for the city to finally have some buzz. But they better come through for the fans or it's not going to be pretty.
Hey James, great blog buddy. I was wondering what kind of impact do you think William Gay and Lawrence Timmons will have on the Steelers? Do you think they'll make it even younger and faster, or will their inexperience hurt us? Thanks!
James Walker (4:49 PM)
The Steelers have a chance to be more dynamic. I caution to say "better," because they were already No. 1 last year. That's hard to beat. But Lawrence Timmons gives Dick LeBeau so many options that he didn't have Larry Foote. William Gay just needs to do his job and he will be fine. He doesn't need to be spectacular this season.
James Elias (Highlands Ranch, Colorado)
Do you think the combination of Shipley and Urbik would improve the Steelers running game?
James Walker (4:51 PM)
A lot of people are high on Pittsburgh's rookie draft picks. I'm taking more of a wait-and-see approach. I watched these guys block in shorts and non-contract drills this spring. That doesn't do anything for me. I can't really see much from o-linemen until they're in pads.
Take this with a grain of salt....Is there a more boring division than the AFC North? i come to all of these chats because i love football....but i really cant think of a good question to ask outside of the derek mason retirement (loved the guy). I envy the fact that you get to live football 24/7, but i cant think of another division i would least want to cover...
James Walker (4:55 PM)
I guess covering two teams in the AFC title game and the Super Bowl champion was soooo boring last year. I appreciate your pity, Joe.
Jon (San Diego)
I was one of the many hoping for Edwards to be traded, but only because I didn't see him remaining a Brown past this next year and wanted to get some value for him rather than him walking. It seems things have been quiet around him lately tho; any chance he'll stay with the Browns past this season?
James Walker (4:58 PM)
I still believe Braylon Edwards will not return if it were up to him. He is doing the right thing in a contract year--staying quiet and playing football. Cleveland may have a couple of options, one being the franchise tag if it chooses.
Will the Steelers resign Heath Miller before the season starts?
James Walker (5:01 PM)
It still remains to be seen. Pittsburgh's first order of business is getting "Ziggy" Hood under contract, then the Steelers may make one more move. It's probably going to be between Miller and Ryan Clark. Since Clark is more affordable at this point he may have the slight edge.
Don (Harrisburg, pa)
Dynomite Mr. Walker!Does Mosely knows that he is out of his mind (Big Ben vs. Eli) or is he completely delusional?Go Steelers!!!
James Walker (5:03 PM)
I read Mosley's piece a dozen times and still couldn't figure out what his case was for Eli Manning???
The C (MD)
do you think mark clayton and d-williams can it step up after mason?
James Walker (5:05 PM)
In my opinion, counting on Mark Clayton to be the No. 1 receiver and Demetrius Williams to be the No. 2 receiver are extremely risky for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Ray Rice (B-more)
Is my boy T-Sizzle going to sign that long term deal today or what?
James Walker (5:08 PM)
It's going to be close, Ray. I really thought this would get done earlier. But you can never count out the business side and its difficult role in the NFL.
Nima (New York)
How come people keep using last year as a barometer for the Bengals? Their franchise player and best player was for 4/5 of the season. If their team was the same team as last year but added Carosn Palmer, they'd gain 4 wins. You have my back, right JW?
James Walker (5:12 PM)
According to contract language, Cincinnati's franchise player is kicker Shayne Graham. Just kidding. I was one of the first to say the Bengals are a potential sleeper this year, Nima. Now everyone is saying it, including the Bengals and their fans, and I'm not sure they're much of a sleeper anymore. Next time, I'll keep my thoughts to myself.
James, I bet you a steak dinner that this year's Steelers team will be a better and more physical team than the '08 version. Just so you know, I like Outback Steakhouse a lot.
James Walker (5:15 PM)
Forgive me for asking, but is this a date invite to Outback Steakhouse? If so this would be the second in three weeks, which is a little odd. (Again, just kidding.) How would you measure "better and more physical"? That means the Steelers have to win the Super Bowl convincingly and have a better defense than the No. 1 unit of last year?
Is Derrick Mason seriously retiring, or is this just a money ploy? He made noises earlier in the summer about wanting a new deal. I can't believe this all came about over the last 2 weeks or so. If he had an inkling in February and March that he might retire he really should have let Ozzie and the front office know.
James Walker (5:24 PM)
Mason says it's not a money ploy, and in my experience he has been a standup guy and an honest person. So I take him at his word. What is a fact is he's really shaken up by the untimely passing of Steve McNair. I also believe his shoulder injury and rehab/pain also has something to do with it.
Who wins the All-Star game tonite?
James Walker (5:26 PM)
As long as it doesn't end in a tie...
the lions will wins 5 or more wins because they got a little more offense and a better quarter back
James Walker (5:29 PM)
At least 5-11 or better for the Detroit Lions. That's a big prediction, Billy. I'll remember that.
Jimmy, James, Jimbo...... How you doing brother? Do you think the Steelers are going to eventually nudge out our beloved Dicky Lebeau as D coordinator to make the team more "Tomlin friendly"? Or do you they keep him aslong as he is producing?
James Walker (5:32 PM)
Not at all, Pizzy. Dick LeBeau will leave on his terms in Pittsburgh. But what I think you will see in the next year or so is Pittsburgh play a little more cover 2. So it won't be so foreign when LeBeau decides to retire.
Who gets the bulk of the Ravens carries in 2009? My gut says Ray Rice.
James Walker (5:34 PM)
I don't see anyone getting a bulk of the carries this year, as LeRon McClain did in 2008. I think Baltimore wants to split it pretty evenly among the tailbacks. But plans can change if someone gets hot.
dan (baltimore md)
the browns have to improve from last year right??
James Walker (5:34 PM)
The Browns should win more games than last year. A much easier schedule will help.
James, It appears that the Ravens and Browns will be the most "vanilla" offenses in the NFL (run and screen pass)?
James Walker (5:36 PM)
Cam Cameron is a very creative mind. I wouldn't underestimate him one bit. The loss of Derrick Mason hurts the Ravens, though. Cleveland looks like it wants to play it very safe. We will see.
The Cribbs situation is questionable. How can Cribbs be upset when he signed that contract extension? Do players in general sign extensions knowing they can cry like a baby to get it redone?
James Walker (5:41 PM)
I have a general feeling that a lot of fans don't understand the business side of the NFL. It's a very shrewd business involving a lot of money, and I usually stay out of it and avoid choosing sides. Fans say players should honor contracts, but when a team cuts a player before their deal is up, no one complians that a team didn't honor a contract. That happens a lot. It goes both ways but for some reason the player gets the most heat.
craig (Lwood, OH)
i disagree with the browns winning more games. inexperienced QB (quinn will start), one running back that is old, and very thin and inexperienced at WR corp (with the exception of 'no hands' and donte - who is suspended). their D is not good enough to make up for these shortcomings....any rebuttal?
James Walker (5:44 PM)
The Browns don't have to win 10 games to win more than last season. They only have to win five. I think that's within reach, considering the schedule.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Hey James, what's your next story going to be on?
James Walker (5:45 PM)
I finishing up my series on AFC North player surveys. Tomorrow will be on the toughest player and best quarterback in the division, as voted by their opponents. I think you will be interested to see the results.
James Walker (5:48 PM)
And on that note, I'm going to get back to the blog. Thanks everyone for your time, and we will do it again next week as we inch closer to training camp.