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)
Hello all. Let's get the chat started.
Hi James. Lots of talk about Mike Pouncey so far this offseason. Is he really that good, or is he getting alot of love based solely on what his twin brother has done?
James Walker (4:03 PM)
It's some of both A.J. Maurkice's success has definitely rubbed off and I think helped Mike in the eyes of scouts as far as how he will project int he NFL. They aren't just brothers, they're twins. So they have pretty much the same exact body type and the same age. But Maurkice is a unique talent that I don't think comes around every year. He was better coming out of college last year than Mike, in my opinion, and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. But that doesn't mean Mike Pouncey won't be a good pro.
I've been waiting for this chat all day! Huge Oakland fan, any chances of Asomugha staying in Oakland and helping Oakland make a run for winning the division next season?
James Walker (4:06 PM)
Really? Are you sure you're in the right chat, Jake? Bill Williamson covers the AFC West and the Raiders. But from everything I'm hearing, Nnamdi isn't returning. He walked away from a ton of money, although he's going to make it back on this next contract anyway. But Nnamdi wants to play in a better winning situation.
Michael H (San Antonio)
Hey James, are you making your draft day plans yet?
James Walker (4:08 PM)
Three days, Michael, don't forget. I live in Cleveland so I will probably stay here. They have the No. 6 overall pick and the second-highest pick in the division. It's also intruiging because they can go offense (WR) or defense (DL), and it's the first draft under new head coach Pat Shurmur.
Michael K. (Orlando, FL)
Assuming Ike Taylor is resigned and Max Starks and Willie Colon play at the same level from before they were injured, what do you think is the bigger need in the draft, corner or o-line?
James Walker (4:11 PM)
That's a lot of assuming, Michael. Starks is the only player of the three currently under contract. So he's coming back. We will have to see what happens with Taylor and Colon. But if everything goes as you say it will, then I would say cornerback. Pittsburgh hasn't ignored the position in the draft. But the team has always waited until the third, fourth and fifth round to draft a corner. So when players like Joe Burnett, Crezdon Butler and Keenan Lewis don't pan out, now the defense has a clear weakness. I think this is the year the Steelers have to go against that trend and take a corner in the first or second round, especially if Taylor doesn't return.
Gabriel (Athens, Ohio)
If the Browns and Bengals finally start living up to their potential in the coming years, what are your thoughts on the hierarchy of the division? A 4 horse race? Musical Division Champs? Toughest division in football?
James Walker (4:13 PM)
I take things year to year and I don't see either team winning the AFC North in 2011. So, in my opinion, the Browns and Bengals are at least two years away.
James, why hasn't Johnathan Joeseph been tagged yet? Our defense underperforms without him just like Philly without Samuel. We need him. I think the whole "injury prone" label is misleading. He missed 8 games in one year and all of a sudden he can't stay healthy.
James Walker (4:17 PM)
Thanks to recent contracts of Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha, the tag for CBs is too expensive. Joseph would make around $14 million for one year with the Bengals, and they are not willing to pay that. Cincy would much rather work out a long-term extension and lock Joseph up for several years. But I would say right now it's about a 50-50 chance that will happen. Otherwise Joseph will test the market.
Eric (New York)
Hey James,Love the blog and glad Fab 40 is back up. 3 browns linemen made the Fab 40 (Mack, Steinbach, and Thomas.) Do the browns address the right side primarily through the draft or free agency? More importantly: How was Shaun Lauvao's rookie campaign? Does he look like he can become a full time starter on the right side?Thanks and looking forward to your response!- Eric
James Walker (4:21 PM)
The Browns are more in the market for a tackle than a guard. For one, it's a harder position to fill. But second, the Browns' front office likes Lauvao. Personally, I haven't seen enough of him at this point to know. I watched him some in training camp and the preseason and Lauvao showed some flashes. For whatever reason, Eric Mangini wasn't that high on Lauvao and didn't play him much, despite the right side of the line being awful. He also battled an ankle injury.
James I really respect your Fab 40, but how did Billy Cundiff only rank 40 overall considering he was on of the most accurate kickers in the NFL this year and had arguably the best seasonever for kickoffs.
James Walker (4:25 PM)
Good question, Alex. I'm not ranking Cundiff against other kickers. I'm ranking him against the best players of all positions in the AFC North. And that's where it gets tricky. How valauble is a kicker compared to a left tackle, for example? Would you take Cundiff, a Pro Bowl kicker, over a pretty good LT in Andrew Whitworth? I would choose the above average LT. So Whitworth was rated a few spots ahead. There are plenty of examples like that and why "Walker's Fab 40" is so challenging every year.
James Walker (4:27 PM)
FYI, the Browns just put the franchise tag on kicker Phil Dawson. That's a bit of a surprise.
James - I hear Namdi wants to play for the Ravens, your thoughts?
James Walker (4:28 PM)
Not happening, unless you want the Ravens to sign Nnamdi over Ngata. Baltimore is not making both players the highest-paid at their positions in the same offseason. This isn't the Yankees.
James - any chance Ravens make another big FA signing
James Walker (4:31 PM)
I think there is. Although Anquan Boldin was acquired in a trade, that was a bold move last year and they gave Boldin an extension. I think the Ravens will make at least one solid move. Not to the degree like Nnamdi Asomugha. But perhaps a lesser but solid signing like CB Johnathan Joseph could be on their radar. Of course, they have to take care of Haloti Ngata in-house.
James, If Kindle is cleared, will the Ravens select CB / WR instead of pass rusher
James Walker (4:32 PM)
I don't anticipate Sergio Kindle to be cleared by the draft. I think this is a situation that will be monitored longer and potentially into the summer and fall. A fractured skull is very serious in a contact sport.
Would the Browns even consider drafting Patrick Peterson if he is on the board at 6? Or do they have too many other positions of need to go BPA?
James Walker (4:34 PM)
I like the player, but not the position. The Browns spent their entire top of the draft on the secondary last year with Joe Haden and T.J. Ward. They need to start helping other positions like DE, DT and WR. I see the Browns going more in that direction with the No. 6 overall pick.
The Cornerback market is stacked this year with big names like Nmadi, Champ, and Jonathan Joseph. With recent cornerback woes, what are the chances the Ravens or the Steelers make a huge splash with one of these guys?
James Walker (4:38 PM)
The Ravens have a better chance than the Steelers, and even then I think a solid player like Joseph would be more on their radar. Pittsburgh rarely makes any big free-agent signings, and I think the Steelers will stick to that formula and be pretty quiet until the draft.
JJ Evans (Burlington, nc)
It has been silent from the C. Palmer camp, any updates?
James Walker (4:39 PM)
I've been keeping my ear to the ground, but right now both sides have drawn the line in the sand and said what they have to say. Maybe Marvin Lewis will elaborate at the combine, but neither stance has changed. Carson Palmer wants out and the Bengals say they won't trade or release him. Something has to happen eventually.
A surprise James? A surprise? The Cleveland Browns just used their franchise tag on a KICKER!!!! WTF? How does this happen to a professionally ran organization?
James Walker (4:42 PM)
Slow down, Justin. It's not totally out of the question. The Bengals (Shayne Graham) and Steelers (Jeff Reed) have done it the past two years. Although both were disasters, it's becoming an AFCN staple for whatever reason. Plus, we're not sure if there will be a franchise tag in a couple weeks.
Hey James, If the CBA does not get set before the deadline can players still get together and practice by themselves? I know they can't speak to the coachs
James Walker (4:45 PM)
Players can do whatever they want amongst themselves away from team facilities. But with no coaches and no playbooks, most would probably be just working out, running routes, etc.
With the Browns having put the tag on Dawson, is there any chance Vickers will be back in Cleveland for another year? Or will he be off to bust holes somewhere else - with Cleveland having nothing to show for it?
James Walker (4:48 PM)
Lawrence Vickers' status is up in the air, Marcus. We haven't seen Pat Shurmur's new offense yet. But most West Coast systems use a variety of three- and four-receiver sets, like the Green Bay Packers, which means there's not much of a role for a power fullback. So it remains to be seen how much value the Browns place on Vickers, who I think is a good player.
Whats up with the McGhee situation. I don't understand why the Ravens would just cut him instead of having a very solid 2nd running back or at least trade him for value. RB's are often hurt in this league.
James Walker (4:51 PM)
You can usually follow the money trail, Cole. McGahee's salary nearly doubles next season to $6 million. That's a lot of money for a backup. The Ravens will probabaly try to re-sign him at a cheaper rate. But McGahee could also take more money elsewhere.
James, is any other divisin as geographically close to one another as the AFCN?
James Walker (4:52 PM)
Nope, and I am fortunate. The NFC East would be pretty close if it wasn't for Dallas.
How many teams from the AFCN make the playoffs next year? Could three possibly make it?
James Walker (4:55 PM)
Eddie, it's way too early. Teams will improve during the draft and free agency and I don't think we can line up playoff teams until at least after that point.
Bill Henderson (Portland )
Hey James, Do you see the Bengals using their franchise tag on anyone before time runs out?
James Walker (5:00 PM)
I expect the Bengals to pass this year. Cedric Benson will be affordable or they can find another RB, and the money for CBs (Joseph) are just too much.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for your time. Be sure to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter page for constant updates on the division.