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 hope everyone is doing well today. Let's chat about the AFC North division.
Dan (Tulsa OK)
Most pundits think the Bengals are destined for the cellar this year. I have heard one who thinks they have the most promising young stable of receivers in the league. I see this as a possible recipe for a "where did THAT team come from" surprise season. Am I crazy?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Any team can surprise, Dan. The Bengals have a lot of young talent. But as far as surprising, I don't see it this year if your definition is winning the division and making the playoffs. We don't know how good Andy Dalton is. And if he struggles like most rookie QBs do, the Bengals won't be able to win consistently this year.
James Walker (4:03 PM)
Also, a lot of people point to two years ago. I predicted those Bengals would surprise because they had a veteran QB (Carson Palmer) coming back from injury and a good mix of vets and young players. It's a different situation, especially at QB.
Do you anticipate Mike Wallace to progress significantly this year or do you think he will remain a "one trick pony."
James Walker (4:05 PM)
By the way, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said at the Super Bowl that Wallace has developed "one and a half tricks." So, yes, I expect Mike Wallace to continue to get better. Unfortunately we can't monitor the progress of players without minicamp and offseason workouts. So I won't be able to give you an accurate gauge until well into training camp and the preseason.
Thomm Heckerttt (Cleveland)
hey JW, i watched john gruden's qb camp the other night, how much do think i should be willing to lay on the line to get a player like terrelle pryor?
James Walker (4:08 PM)
I see. We are keeping the running joke alive in the chat of GMs who can't spell their own names. Tom, I don't see you taking a chance on Pryor but I think you should. The cost of a fourth- or fifth-round pick is worth a player of his athletic ability. There's no pressure on him to be a starting QB in Cleveland and he may help you at WR if that doesn't work out. Pryor has as good a chance, or better, than any other fourth- or fifth-round pick to make it in the NFL.
Prediction time, Mr. Walker. Who do you think plays RT for the Ravens Week 1 against the Steelers? Jah Reid? Marshall Yanda? Michael Oher (with Gaither on the left)? Jared Gaither (with Oher on the left)? Ramon Harewood? OR, a free agent to be named later? Inquiring minds want to know...
James Walker (4:10 PM)
I don't feel good about predictions because, like I mentioned, I can't monitor any progress of players without minicamps and offseason workouts. But I think Jah Reid will be given every chance to win the job. I don't see Gaither coming back. The Ravens like Yanda at guard and Cousins has struggled. Maybe Baltimore will look in free agency, as well.
B.Anderson (Altoona, PA)
It is estimated that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be well above the new salary cap when the lock-out is lifted, where can they make cuts in order to manage new rookies and free agent signings to meet their need of a starting corner back while keeping depth in certain positions, O-line to be specific?
James Walker (4:12 PM)
Flozell Adams is a possibility to be released or restructure his deal. I think Aaron Smith also is an option to restructure. LaMarr Woodley has a franchise tag worth approximately $10 million this year. So Pittsburgh can save a lot of cap space there if it gives Woodley a long-term extension with a big signing bonus.
James Walker (4:13 PM)
I think those are three possibilities for cap relief.
Steve (Columbus, OH)
If, we get a deal. the browns will need at least one starter and backup for the D-line. who are the best ones.
James Walker (4:15 PM)
I like Ray Edwards and Charles Johnson at DE. Those are the two best players available at their position and the Browns should go top shelf right away. Cleveland has two rookie starters (Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard) on its D-Line and needs a good veteran to perform and take the pressure off.
Anthony (Cleveland )
Are there any stud safeties out there that Zimmer likes AND the Bengals have a chance to pick up in FA?
James Walker (4:18 PM)
There are a lot of good safeties, and I think that's one of the strongest positions in free agency this year. You can check out one of my recent blogs today to see the names. But unfortunately, the Bengals don't usually chase big-name free agents. I don't expect them to go big in free agency this year either, although mandatory spending could force their hand some.
Jason (Baltimore, MD)
JW- Did you get a chance to watch the US defeat Brazil? Im not a soccer fan but I was definitely on the edge of my seat the entire time. Your thoughts sir?
James Walker (4:19 PM)
Yes, tremendous game to watch just as a sports fan. I'm not big on soccer but I appreciate competition of all sports in general. You're not going to see drama like that often in any sport.
What do you think the chances are that the Ravens resign Josh Wilson? He seemed to be a rather solid fit in the secondary last year, and I'm hoping he stays on.
James Walker (4:21 PM)
There's a chance, Greg. But after drafting Jimmy Smith, I think it's more likely Wilson gets paid somewhere else. Chris Carr will probably come cheaper and Baltimore could go after him instead. The Ravens have a decent stable of CBs now with Smith, Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth. They don't need to spend huge money in free agency for another corner.
James - Mendenhall, Hillis, Benson or Rice. Which back ends up with most yards and which with the most TD's this season in your opinion? Thanks.
James Walker (4:22 PM)
Really, it comes down to who stays the healthiest. I think Ray Rice is the best player of the group. But if he sprains an ankle and misses four games, Rashard Mendenhall may have more yards.
Ryan Kaiss (Baltimore)
Do you think the ravens will try to get a big name player in the off season
James Walker (4:25 PM)
Big name, as in Nnamdi Asomugha? I don't see it. The Ravens have to take care of their own and have too many big-money deals coming up. They have to sign Haloti Ngata this year, and he's going to be one of the highest-paid D-linemen in the NFL. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice will need new deals next year. So the Ravens also have to be careful there.
James Walker (4:26 PM)
I see the Ravens giving Ngata huge money, Marshal Yanda good money, and then spending the rest to sign a corner, fullback and maybe a pass rusher and right tackle if they can find one.
Michael H (San Antonio)
As a Browns fan, I don't really like to devote myself to their QB knowing its a revolving door position. But I gotta say, Colt has been saying and doing a lot of good things. I'm finding it very hard not to back him 100%
James Walker (4:28 PM)
Without a doubt, Colt has all the intangibles and leadership ability you look for in a QB. The issue is Colt good enough? No one knows that answer, not even the Browns. But we're going to find out this year. The Steelers and Ravens won't take it easy on him.
Amaan (New Jersey)
Do you think Ryan Clark was wrong to respond to Ray Rice's tweet? I think Rice's first tweet was not at all calling out Hines Ward but just a plain statement.
James Walker (4:32 PM)
I don't have an opinion on it. That's their issue, their beef, and it should remain between them. I have mixed emotions about Twitter beefs in general. It's a very new thing, and part of it is entertaining for the media and fans to watch. But, personally, I'm not sure that's the best way to go about things.
How much pressure is on Steelers Off. Coordinator to balance the air attack and the ground game
James Walker (4:35 PM)
More last year than this year, Don. When you win the AFC and go to a Super Bowl, teams magically have less issues than it did the year before. Pittsburgh did a good job running more last season and it won more games. I think the Steelers will just continue doing what they're doing.
Will the Ravens release running back Willis McGahee to create salary space to upgrade more positions instead of paying a back up more money then a starter?
James Walker (4:37 PM)
Yes, David. There is no reason for Baltimore to pay a backup $6 million. That money could be used elsewhere to help the team. The Ravens do want McGahee back, just at a lesser number.
Will (Nashville, TN)
You wrote before that a GM would be a good way to spend some of the required cap for the Bengals. Did you have anyone in mind that would be a good fit? It will obviously be a tough gig.
James Walker (4:40 PM)
Will, I wrote the Bengals should do it, but they won't. No point in thinking of possible candidates for something that won't happen.
What do you think the Browns will be looking for with the two first round picks in next year's draft?
James Walker (4:42 PM)
Waaaaay too early for that, Malek. I treat the AFC North blog as a year-to-year thing, because too much can change in a season. So I'm not going there. But according the Scouts Inc., the Browns could take Stanford QB Andrew Luck next year with the No. 1 overall pick.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Speaking of Ward's possible DUI, I do not think the NFL has any right to incur fines and/or suspensions to players once the new CBA is signed as the players technically were locked out and not under the umbrella of the NFL rules. Do you think the NFL can legally sanction these players (Britt, Taliq, Ward, etc)? Again, its not a question of SHOULD, Im looking more from a legal perspective.
James Walker (4:45 PM)
I understand your point, Shane. But the NFL has always had its own way of governing things. Roger Goodell said cases will be looked at and players will face possible suspensions. I suppose the NFLPA could fight it for the reasons you mentioned. But the NFLPA has so many issues right now fighting the owners for a new CBA that I don't see it spending resources to protect players who already got themselves in trouble.
Will Ed Reed win a ring before he retires?
James Walker (4:47 PM)
Reed is playing for a contender this year. So he has a chance. I can't look beyond that right now. The 2011 season hasn't even started.
What affect do you think the new salary cap will have on the steeler's ability to resign Ike Taylor or another FA CB?
James Walker (4:49 PM)
Not much. The Steelers treated last year like there was a cap even when there wasn't one. The Steelers has to make some moves to fit guys in, but I don't think that will alter their approach.
richard (kittanning, pa.)
I have been a steeler fan since 1948 when players like ernie stautner made 10,000 dollars. Todays players need to shut up and play and thank God they are able to make as much as they do. If they would invest wisely instead of jewelry etc. They would be set for life. Thank you.
James Walker (4:50 PM)
Interesting points, Richard. Congrats on being a football fan for so long. You've seen a lot.
Tyler (Youngstown, Ohio)
Do you think the Cincinnati Bengals have a chance to make the playoffs this year even with a rookie quaterback?
James Walker (4:52 PM)
Not this year, Tyler. The Bengals have a lot of young players put in huge roles and, barring injury, I think the Steelers and Ravens are going to be tough. Cincinnati is still at least two years away from contending.
Kovacs (Santa Monica)
When guys like Homlgren and Heckert say they like a group of WRs, don't you have to give those opinions credence?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
You definitely respect the opinions of Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert. But it's my job to trust my own eyes and write what I see. I disagree that the Browns are good at WR. Sure, I could be wrong. But from what I've seen up to this point, I'm not seeing what they're seeing.
From an outsiders view don't you think Baltimore is a little over confident against the Steelers being that flacco and Harbaugh have never beaten pittsburgh with roethlisberger at the helm?
James Walker (4:59 PM)
I don't get the sense the Ravens are overconfident. That's just how they are. Baltimore has a lot of swagger and likes to talk. It's not any different from any other year.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for a great chat. Remember to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter for the latest updates on the division.