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 p.m. ET!
James Walker (4:00 PM)
I'm back from Super Bowl XLV. So let's chat.
Did the Packers deserve the win, or did they win due to Pittsburghs major errors?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
The Packers earned the win. They took care of the football (zero turnovers) and forced three turnovers. Usually that is a formula for success. The Steelers obviously wish they'd executed better but Green Bay earned it.
Michael H (San Antonio)
What positions are the Browns lacking to make an efficent 4-3 defense?
James Walker (4:03 PM)
Good question, Michael. Right now I would say they definitely need a stud DE, which is important in a 4-3. I also think they're lacking a good linebacker or two. Right now Scott Fujita is Cleveland's best LB, IMO. As soon as he went down, the defense fell apart. Matt Roth is a free agent and I'm not sure if he's returning.
Scott Akers (South Boston, VA)
James...I'm a huge Bengals fan and I have been all of my life. What's the inside word on the Bengals quarterback situation?
James Walker (4:06 PM)
From everything I'm hearing Carson Palmer is very serious about his trade request. I'm not 100 percent sure he's willing to retire, but he definitely wants out. It's pretty much a standoff right now between Palmer and ownership. I don't think this is going to be a quick fix. This could drag into the spring and summer if Mike Brown tries to call Palmer's bluff.
James Walker (4:07 PM)
I wouldn't say you were crazy, Irwin, because I'm a nice guy. I would just disagree with you. LaMarr Woodley is the team's biggest priority right now. He could get the franchise tag soon. The Steelers are expected to make a run at both players.
Big Phill (St.Louis MO)
Browns have alot of needs and WR is a must BUT do you think they should go defense first DL, OLB, ILB or CB are all avalible with the #6 pick who should they take and then go WR in the 2nd or later THANKS for your time
James Walker (4:09 PM)
Big Phill, I've said several times in the AFCN blog that I'm against drafting a WR in the top 10. Usually teams picking that high have various needs and Cleveland is one of those teams. But the Browns are crazy thin at that position that I'm reconsidering for this year only. I really like A.J. Green also. Expect me to go back and forth on this a lot in the next few months.
Do you think that Carson Palmer will stick around now that they have hired Jay Gruden?
James Walker (4:12 PM)
Change was needed in Cincinnati. But from what I'm hearing, the Gruden hire doesn't change Palmer's desire to want out. Much of it is personnel-based and the team not being good enough to compete for a championship next season. Carson is 31 now and only has a few years left. He doesn't want to be part of another rebuilding effort.
Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)
Do you ever remember a team losing so many players throughtout the season, including the Super Bowl, but still winning? How fitting was it that the Packers lost some key players (Driver and Woodson) but still somehow won the Super Bowl?
James Walker (4:13 PM)
The Packers without a doubt are a resilient team. Pittsburgh showed a lot of that as well and battled through injuries. Usually those are the teams which go far.
What team will Chad Ochocinco or whatever last name he goes by now play for next season?
James Walker (4:15 PM)
The Bengals keep saying he's under contract. But I think he could be had for the right price. I would be somewhat surprised if Ochocinco returned to Cincy. But the Bengals are so unpredictable that you can't put anything past them.
Was Super Bowl XLV Hines Ward's last game or does he come back for another shot at the title?
James Walker (4:16 PM)
Hines Ward said after the game that he's not retiring. He never said during Super Bowl week that he was, but some offseason comments were brought up from last summer.
Dan (lynchburg va)
I know you like picking early, before we know anything, so... Who you got winning north next season? How bout Super Bowl?
James Walker (4:18 PM)
Come on, Dan. Seriously? At least allow me to see the draft and free agency.
James Walker (4:19 PM)
Ok, here's an early prediction: Steelers and Ravens will finish in the top half of the division, and the Browns and Bengals will finish in the bottom half.
Troy had a poor post-season (by his standards), if the Steelers draft a solid starting CB, how much will it help the defense, and how much will it help Troy to have more freedom?
James Walker (4:20 PM)
I think a shutdown corner would be huge for Pittsburgh. It would take the pressure off the safeties and the pass rush. But Pittsburgh has needs on the O-line as well. So that could be its first-round target.
Dan (lynchburg va)
Not looking at a specific team and other then the cba, what are the biggest stories to follow in the afc north this offseason?
James Walker (4:21 PM)
For the AFC North, I would say Carson Palmer's future, Cleveland's switch to a West Coast offense and 4-3 defense, and the free agency of Haloti Ngata and LaMarr Woodley. I may have missed something, but that's what I have on my mind today.
Hey James, Did you get a feeling about what the players thought of the CBA situation?
James Walker (4:23 PM)
Yes, most players I talked to were anticipating a lockout next month. It doesn't mean the NFL will miss any games. That's not until September. But there was a lot of pessimism that a deal would get done in less than a month.
James, I just read your article on the Steelers fan at the Superbowl. Good article, and I really feel for the guy. The NFL is really going to take another big hit on this one, aren't they?
James Walker (4:24 PM)
Dallas did not do a good job of handling the Super Bowl. The game and the teams were solid. But in terms of weather, logistics, this ticket issue, etc., it was pretty much a disaster.
James Walker (4:25 PM)
I would be surprised if Dallas gets another Super Bowl any time soon. But stranger things have happened.
Greg (Olmsted Township,Oh)
James, I know we still need a CBA in place before we get to free agency, but what are the chances Phil Dawson stays in Cleveland and ends his career as a Brown? I don't want to see the most consistant Brown since '99 leave for another team.
James Walker (4:26 PM)
I don't anticipate Phil Dawson returning. He's been unhappy with his contract for a few years now, and the sense I got was he wanted an opportunity to win big late in his career. He's not going to get that in Cleveland.
Take away either the mendenhall fumble or the picks six it is ring number 7. Agree?
James Walker (4:27 PM)
If I had a million dollars I'd be a millionaire. What's your point?
James Walker (4:28 PM)
Both turnovers were costly and put 14 points on the board for Green Bay.
Do you think a healthy Starks and Colon will return to the starting o-line for the Steelers next year? It seems like they need some help at guard.
James Walker (4:31 PM)
Max Starks is under contract so he definitely will return. He will be a good addition back at left tackle. I talked to him before the Super Bowl and he actually felt he was healthy enough to play, but he was already put on IR. Willie Colon is not under contract so the Steelers would have to work out a new deal. He has the versatility to play tackle and guard, so Colon could help.
Zach (Bala Cynwyd, PA)
How long do you think it will be before the Browns will make the playoffs, assuming that the Heckert-Holmgren front office continues to find good talent, though the draft and free agency?
James Walker (4:34 PM)
I try to take things year to year, Zach. So much changes in the NFL that it's extremely hard to look beyond that. Right now, before the draft and free agency, I would say the Browns are not making the playoffs this year. I'm guessing my prediction won't change by the time training camp starts. They have a lot of ground to make up with the Steelers and Ravens.
If the Bengals trade Palmer are they officially in rebuilding mode?
James Walker (4:35 PM)
The Bengals are rebuilding now. That's why Carson Palmer wants out. They were 4-12.
Irwin (Jersey City, NJ)
James you are a nice guy. Do you get an offseason?
James Walker (4:36 PM)
Thanks, Irwin. I get some time off here and there. But covering the NFL is a year-round job. I love it and I know what I signed up for.
Which would be worse...Steelers losing Coach Keith Butler or Coach Ray Horton??
James Walker (4:37 PM)
Both are solid, but I would say Keith Butler. He's probably the top in-house candidate to replace Dick LeBeau whenever he decides to retire.
Presuming the Bengals have another losing year (they probably will), will this be Marvin Lewis last year as coach hard to believe he held onto the job as long as he did
James Walker (4:39 PM)
Lewis is not in the hot season. He just got a two-year contract extension. He will probably coach those two years regardless of how things work out.
I love Mike Tomlin as a coach, but I'm really having a hard time understanding why he went for a 52 yard field goal with subpar Suisham instead of going for it or punting the Packers deep in their own territory. Do you think the Steelers draft a kicker this year?
James Walker (4:42 PM)
I thought that was a bad decision when it happened. I was scratching my head why the Steelers were trying it. But Mike Tomlin puts a lot of trust in his players. Suisham is just not able to make that kick.
James Walker (4:43 PM)
Pittsburgh definitely has a need. But I haven't really studied kickers in the draft yet.
Michael (Ann Arbor)
To be honest, whether you think the Browns should take A.J. Green or not really doesn't matter. He's going to be gone by 6 when the Bengals take him at 4. The real question is whether they take Quinn, Dareus, Won Miller, or Julio Jones. Who are you liking out of those four?
James Walker (4:44 PM)
I'm halfway against the Browns taking a receiver that high at No. 6. But I'm REALLY against the Bengals taking a WR at No. 4. That would be another big mistake for a team which has bigger needs.
Brian (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Would you please pass on how respectful and classy the Steeler fans were before and during the game. Glad my team won; however, I sincerely feel the Steelers showed everyone they have an outstanding organization with first class fans!
James Walker (4:46 PM)
There you go, Brian. Being around Dallas last week, both fan bases I ran into were top notch.
Rob (San Antonio, Texas)
James, good job throughout the playoffs! I agree the Steelers did not have a complete game the entire playoff run. Is this on coaching, players, injuries, or all the above?
James Walker (4:47 PM)
Well, it's not easy to play four great quarters against very tough competition. But I was more concerned with the slow starts. The Steelers fell behind big against Baltimore and Green Bay. They barely escaped the first time. But you can't make a habit out of it, especially in the Super Bowl.
Michael H (San Antonio)
You predict the Steelers into the top half of the division? Granted it's still early in the off-season, but you still have to take in account that Troy Polamalu is breaking down every season now. Their defense is picked apart without him at 100%. I just don't see it.
James Walker (4:49 PM)
So, Michael, do you have the Steelers finishing third or fourth in the AFC North? Coming off a Super Bowl, I don't see it.
Do you root for AFC north teams in the playoffs so you get a comped trip to the Super Bowl?
James Walker (4:51 PM)
Wins and losses with any team doesn't matter to me. Sometimes bloggers get to go to the Super Bowl as wild cards, like Matt Mosley and Mike Sando this year, or as play-ins, like me and Kevin Seifert.
James Walker (4:51 PM)
This year I was a play-in. But I may be a wild-card entry next year.
What position do you see the Ravens addressing in the draft on day 1 James?
James Walker (4:54 PM)
I would say offensive tackle is big for them. If they can hit on another Michael Oher type, that would be key. A pass-rusher to help Terrell Suggs also would be good for the Ravens. Speed at WR, as well.
Do you see Joe Flacco as a franchise QB for the Ravens? I think he is a stud, but some folks knock his game every once in a while?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
I don't understand all the heat on Joe Flacco and the expectations of him to be an elite QB. He's not Tom Brady. He's not going to be Tom Brady. But Flacco is good enough to win with. Matt Ryan has yet to win a playoff game and no one gets on him for anything. But Flacco gets drilled. I don't get it.
where will cam newton end up playing?
James Walker (4:59 PM)
Not in the AFC North, J. Some early projections have him going to the Redskins. But it's too soon to say.
On behalf of the AFC North community, thanks for all your hard work this year, James. We would like to sign you to a 3 year extension.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Thanks, Brittany. There's no other division I'd rather play for.
James Walker (5:01 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for the great questions. Remember to check out the AFCN blog and AFC North Twitter page for constant updates.