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)
It looks like a deal is near. Let's talk AFC North football.
Since Lamar Woodley signed this franchise tender already, are the steelers on the hook for all that money in 2010 (there already over the cap) or can the steelers re-sign him to a long term deal and lower the cap number?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Mark, the Steelers can sign Woodley to a long-term deal if they choose. This would be a great way to help get under the cap and give Woodley long-term security. The problem is there will not be a lot of time to work out this type of huge contract. So I'm not it will happen. It's easier for Pittsburgh to makes some cuts first before free agency starts.
Good afternoon JW. Is Limas Sweed healthy? And can you see either Butler or Lewis earning a starting DB spot in Pittsburgh?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
Sweed is once again healthy. But his role is so small on the team right now that it might be time for a fresh start. At best, he's probably fifth on the depth chart behind Ward, Wallace, Sanders and Brown. If Randle El isn't released, Sweed could be sixth. As far as the two young corners you mentioned, Pittsburgh would prefer to sign a veteran or keep Ike Taylor. If not, Butler or Curtis Brown may have the best chance.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What NFL Stadium is Absolutely Terrible to Get in & Out Of by car because the Parking is Terrible?
James Walker (4:06 PM)
There's still a handful of stadiums I have not been to, Chris. But of the 28 or so I've visited, I would say New England is the toughest to get to. There is only one way in and one way out, and the road is so small that you have to get there really early.
O.J. (Washington, DC)
What do the Ravens need to push them over the hump and get to a Super Bowl? They seem to have all the pieces personnel-wise. I think the key is Joe Flacco's development and whether he takes that next step from good to great.
James Walker (4:10 PM)
I agree Flacco's growth is the biggest key. In the NFL QB is the one position -- and maybe the only position -- that can carry a team all the way or hold a team back. Super Bowls can be won without a great RB or a great LT, etc. Not-so-great QBs have won in the past but not in recent years.
Mo (London, Ontario)
How confident are the Browns in Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie? I really like Greg Little but I find it hard to believe the Browns wont look for someone to come in and be the number 1 guy.
James Walker (4:12 PM)
The Browns are more confident in their WRs than most people, Mo. And I don't know if that's a stunt or they really believe it. Personally, I don't think the ceiling is that high for Massaquoi and Robiskie. I've seen them for two years and I think, for the most part, they are what they are. Maybe Little can develop quickly but that's asking a lot from a rookie who didn't play in his final year of college.
Anthony (Waco, TX)
What do you see the Ravens doing during the free agency period?Any signings other than the re-signing of our own players?
James Walker (4:15 PM)
Baltimore will add a fullback. Lawrence Vickers is a name I'm hearing a lot. Vonta Leach not as much, but he's a possibility, as well. They could also add some depth on the offense line and maybe get an edge rusher.
Stephen R (Mount Airy, MD)
Hey JW. What do you think the Ravens should do about Dawan Landry? I think they should keep him. He's obviously no Ed Reed, but seems to be one of the better tacklers and isn't a major problem in the secondary. For some reason I don't have as much faith in Zbikowski.
James Walker (4:16 PM)
Landry is probably a goner, Stephen. Decent player, but he's had some injuries and it's other guys' turn to step up like Tom Zbikowski and maybe Haruki Nakamura. I think the Ravens are fine letting Landry go and spending their free-agent money elsewhere.
can i expect anything at all from my Browns !?
James Walker (4:19 PM)
Yes, Michael. I think they will compete hard, even if that doesn't translate to a ton of wins. There are a lot of young players in that locker room who want to win. I believe that. But it's a transition year for them and Cleveland still has a lot of holes. If Colt McCoy isn't the answer, that will be another big problem the team needs to solve. Too many questions right now.
Socalbuckeye (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)
What do you think the Browns biggest need area in free agency will be? Also do you think Colt McCoy is the answer at QB?
James Walker (4:21 PM)
No. 1 is DE. No. 2 is safety. It's too early to answer the McCoy question. The Browns don't even know. I've seen a few reasons to be optimistic and some reasons to be pessimistic.
Tony (Washington DC)
Do the Ravens have a chance at compensation for the Bear's foul-up on draft day?
James Walker (4:22 PM)
The issue is over, as far as the league is concerned. The Bears admitted and apologized for the mistake, and the league chose to stay out of it. The Ravens still feel upset about it, and I understand. But nothing can be done.
JON (SANDUSKY, OHIO)
Hey JW, I believe the browns most glarring weakness is at RT. Is there any chance of stealing baltimore's free agent RT?
James Walker (4:24 PM)
RT is probably third in my book behind DE and S. But Cleveland is confident Tony Pashos can return from injury and be a decent starter. He's another guy I wonder if the Browns are overvaluing. But we will see.
Odds that Mike Brown shocks the NFL world and moves Carson Palmer for a "Deal He Can't Refuse?"
James Walker (4:25 PM)
I wouldn't say it's completely out of the realm of possibility. It's just Mike Brown has showed no prior history of changing his mind on these matters. That's where it would come as a surprise.
Kenny (South Park)
At what point will the AFC North represent 3 spots in the playoffs?
James Walker (4:26 PM)
Not this year, Kenny.
So since the Steelers can't win the division this year, are they done. Should they blow up and start over?
James Walker (4:28 PM)
Let me be clear to everyone. Just because I picked the Ravens to win the AFC North in 2011 doesn't mean the Steelers are "done." I wrote in the article that Pittsburgh is still a team good enough to make the playoffs, but everyone seems to ignore that part. Baltimore wasn't "done" when Pittsburgh won the division last year. Both teams are very good, but I'm giving the Ravens a slight edge this year.
Michael H (San Antonio)
I think Browns WR Carlton Mitchell is going to explode this season. He's been placed on the back burner by Mangini, but Holmgren's new coaching staff will show everyone what he can do. I have no idea why no one really talks about him more.
James Walker (4:30 PM)
Carlton Mitchell has become a cult favorite of sorts among Browns fans, and I can't quite put a finger on where this is coming from. He has good size, but I need to see more from him in actual games.
Ian Plank (Covington, KY)
Do you think Mike Brown is likely to keep Benson, not only for being a workhorse, but because with his recent issues he'll be cheaper than anyone else on the market?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Some people have mentioned this theory, but I'm not sure it holds water in this case. Don't forget, the threat of a suspension is huge, as well. If Benson potentially has to miss the first two, four or eight games, it just doesn't make sense to sign a player right now who potentially cannot help you.
Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore, MD)
Hey James, I trust your insight. Should I spend the big bucks and go after Asomugha, and send an extra pass rusher every down? Or do I go after a pass rushing specialist to help the defense? Thanks, you make my job easy.
James Walker (4:35 PM)
Ozzie, you spelled your name right. I need an intentional misspelling so I know it's you next time. You know the rules of the AFC North chat.
Kovacs (Santa Monica)
A couple of years ago you watched the Bengals in training camp and predicted they would surprise. What was it that you saw?
James Walker (4:38 PM)
I just got a good feeling about them, because everyone seemed focused and had a chip on their shoulder. Carson had something to prove, coming back from injury. Chad Ochocinco wanted to prove doubters wrong and had a great offseason. They had a few other outcasts who wanted to show their worth in the league. The D was underrated and played hard even the year before. I haven't seen that kind of hunger and focus from the Bengals since.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Disclaimer: Avid Cards fan here, JW. Do you think Harrison could have talked himself out of Pittsburgh? Arizona would seem a logical landing spot...what kind of compensation do you think Harrison would command in terms of draft picks IF the Steelers wanted to move him?
James Walker (4:40 PM)
Keep dreaming, Shane. The Steelers aren't cutting Harrison. He didn't say anything about the Steelers, just two players on the team. They will handle that issue internally and move on.
Kovacs (Santa Monica)
What AFCN team are you most excited to see in training camp?
James Walker (4:41 PM)
I'm excited about all the teams. I just want to get back to football and write good stories about the division.
Steve Muth (Albany, NY)
Will the Steelers make any headlines with a big name acquisition at RB/WR or are they content with filling the holes at other positions?
James Walker (4:43 PM)
The Steelers do not make splashy additions in free agency, Steve. The Steelers will try to find an affordable corner, whether it's Ike Taylor or someone else. But other than that, don't expect any big names. They have to first get under the cap.
Do you think if the Browns get off to a really bad start, and realize Colt is not the answer, they would tank to pick Andrew Luck?
James Walker (4:45 PM)
A lot has to go wrong for the Browns to land Andrew Luck. The entire year would have to be a disaster and Cleveland would need to be the worst team in the league to land the top pick. I don't see all of those things happening, Vinnie.
Michael H (San Antonio)
Which training camp do you plan on seeing first?
James Walker (4:46 PM)
Right now the plan is to start in Latrobe with the Steelers to monitor the fallout from their offseason. That could change, but I doubt it.
Patt SureMore (Brownstown)
Am I making a mistake by letting Vickers go? Sometimes I feel like he's got better hands than my receiving corps. (Don't tell them I said that. Don't tell Big Mike, either.)
James Walker (4:52 PM)
"Patt," like a lot of coaches, you very much believe in your system. So I don't blame you for wanting players you feel fit within that. But with Lawrence Vickers, I think you're letting a good football player away without getting anything in return. There's also the chance Vickers can come back to hurt your team if he goes somewhere like Baltimore. It's a risky move.
Ryan (Maria Stein, OH)
Do the Browns have legit shots at Ray Edwards and the hometown boy Donte Whitner?
James Walker (4:53 PM)
If they have money they have a shot. And the Browns have money. It's really going to come down to who offers the most. The Browns will be bidding against a lot of teams for top free agents.
Tony Pashosssssss (DawgPound)
What am I doing wrong? Why don't you believe in me?!
James Walker (4:56 PM)
"Tony Pashosssssss," you just have to stay healthy this year. I need to see you actually play some football first. That's all. Your left side is pretty good, so the Browns aren't asking for much.
Ozzie Newsum (Baltimore MD)
Steve Smith or no? Good guy and all but I don't think theres enough footballs to go around.
James Walker (4:59 PM)
"Ozzie Newsum," I think it really comes down to how good you feel about your team. If this is your shot and you want to go for it, take Smith in. If you like rookie Torrey Smith and don't want to risk chemistry for not having enough balls around, stand pat.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for the great questions. Hopefully by next week's chat, the lockout will be over.