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May 17, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with James Walker

James Walker
  (4:00 PM)

Good afternoon, everyone. It looks like the lockout is going to go into the summer. But we can still talk some AFC North football.

Dave (SD, CA)

I was surprised to see Joe Haden not included among the NFLs best cornerbacks in the ESPN Positional Power Rankings. Not even a single vote. He had a great rookie campaign.

James Walker
  (4:02 PM)

Joe Haden had a great second half of the season. But that doesn't automatically make you an elite corner. He wasn't even a starter to open the season, because he didn't beat out Eric Wright. Haden is great and he will only get better. But on my ballot I voted for players who have played well for much longer.

John (Bel Air, MD)

Is Jonathan Joseph a lock to leave the Bengals?

James Walker
  (4:04 PM)

Nothing is a "lock" in this crazy offseason. But reading the signs, I expect Joseph to play elsewhere next season. Lesser corners are making $10 million per year. I'm sure Joseph can get somewhere close to that number because he is a good, young player entering his prime. The Bengals typically don't pay that kind of money to keep their free agents.

Baeff (Bmore)

Hey James,How long do you think you could last in the ring with Tom Zbikowski?

James Walker
  (4:05 PM)

Longer than Chad Ochocinco lasted on the bull last weekend.

Jon (Baltimore)

Will the regular season start on 9/11 with all of this CBA mess?

James Walker
  (4:07 PM)

I still have confidence that it will, Jon. I'm not surprised at all that this lockout is going into the summer. All the signs were pointing to that. But when games are about to be missed, that's when the pressure is really on. Neither side -- players or owners -- want to lose money. That's what this lockout is mostly about anyway. So I think before we miss any games, which equals money, a deal will be reached.

Brian (suffield,ohio)

How do you think Montario Hardesty and Peyton Hillis will do splitting carries?

James Walker
  (4:09 PM)

It's too early to say. The key will be can Hardesty return 100 percent and, most importantly, stay healthy. If that's the case, then I think you will see the Browns use Hardesty with and without Hillis on the field. Hillis will still get the bulk of the carries. But as you saw last season, you will run him into the ground if he's involved in every play.

Patrick (Dayton OH)

are the browns really the worst team in football?

James Walker
  (4:11 PM)

According to Scouts Inc., the Browns are the second-worst team behind the Washington Redskins. But I wouldn't encourage everyone to overreact in May. Free agency is still out there and the Browns can keep filing holes.

matt (boston)

dont you think the ravens should have gone for a offensive tackle? in lat games against the steelers, the steelers pass rush really gets to them especially in that playoff game

James Walker
  (4:14 PM)

I felt RT was Baltimore's biggest need, but the Ravens almost always stick to their board. They really like Jimmy Smith, and talent-wise, I can't argue with that. The biggest question is obviously will Smith get over his troubled past, which the Ravens feel he can. Baltimore later took Jah Reid in the third round.

GP (Orlando)

Why are the Bengals not getting bashed (as this bengal fan thinks they should) for not completing the ATL draft trade?

James Walker
  (4:16 PM)

If the offer was the exact same Cleveland received (which we don't fully know) the point chart came up short for Cincy. Keep in mind, the Bengals were two spots higher, which means the No. 4 pick is that much more valued on the point chart. The Bengals could have used more picks, but they got their WR and QB they wanted.

Dennis (Pittsburgh)

Do you think the lockout dragging on longer & longer increases Carson's trade value?

James Walker
  (4:18 PM)

Actually, I think it hurts. Teams want to move on and prepare for 2011, not sit and wait on who there quarterback will be. That why I think you saw a lot of teams like Tennessee (Jake Locker) and Minnesota (Christian Ponder) reach for QBs higher than projected. Teams want answers. I think the Bengals should trade Palmer, but I'm not sure at this point if they will.

Josh (Owings Mills, MD)

Which AFC North team do you see possibly surprising everyone, whether it's BAL\PIT to fall apart and miss the playoffs or CLE\CIN to make a run and exceed expectations?

James Walker
  (4:21 PM)

I'm 2-for-2 picking sleepers in the AFC North. I picked the 2008 Ravens and 2009 Bengals in back-to-back years. I didn't see a sleeper last year so I stayed put. I guess I was right on that also. I'm not fully ready to make any predictions before free agency. But I'm guessing I will stay put again this year with no sleepers in the division.

jim (mexico)

are the browns in good shape to make a big splash in free agency

James Walker
  (4:23 PM)

Yes, the Browns have plenty of cap space if there is a cap in the new CBA. They actually have a lot of players not under contract unless we return to the 2010 rules. It's just a strange time trying to project how free agency will go, but the Browns will have money to spend. They just have to convince guy to come to a rebuilding team instead of a contender.

Mark D. (Detroit)

Hey James. Enjoy your work. If you were calling the shots in Cleveland, who would you target in free agency? Thank you.

James Walker
  (4:25 PM)

I'm not the GM, but S Donte' Whitner would be one of my first targets. Whitner, T.J. Ward and Haden would be a solid secondary and Whitner has local ties.

Cody (Cleveland)

Do you see any comparison of Colt McCoy to another third round quarterback taken by the Browns names Charlie Frye? Both took over bad teams.

James Walker
  (4:28 PM)

Living in Cleveland, I've seen both quarterbacks a lot over the past few years, and McCoy is better than Frye. I don't know how high McCoy's ceiling is or if he will be the answer long-term. But McCoy is ahead of Frye at this stage.

mike (new jersey)

instead of nnamdi, what about cromartie to the steelers? he is a reasonable addition

James Walker
  (4:29 PM)

Antonio Cromartie doesn't fit the Steelers' locker room, and he will be a high-priced addition. That's not a good match for Pittsburgh. Ike Taylor returning for a reasonable price is probably the Steelers' best option right now.

Brandon (Orange County, CA)

will everyone please stop with the nnamdi talk! I swear true steeler fans would know better!!!!!!!!!

James Walker
  (4:31 PM)

I don't know, Brandon. I have my doubts. I get asked Nnamdi to Pittsburgh questions every week. I thought about photo-shopping Asomugha in a Steelers uniform and run it in the AFC North blog as a joke (similar to Cam Newton to the Bengals) just to prod at Steeler Nation a little bit.

chris (M)

Hey James, do you think sergio kindle will ever return to the ravens as a legitimate play maker? Or will the ravens address that need in FA?

James Walker
  (4:33 PM)

No one, including the Ravens, can answer that question, Chris. Kindle suffered a severe head injury and until he's medically cleared, it's too premature to project his impact with the Ravens. He was a solid player in college, though, which is why Baltimore is hoping for the best.

Bradley (Elsmere Ky)

As a life long suffering Bengal fan any chance to hold out hope?

James Walker
  (4:35 PM)

I think every fan of every team should have hope this time of year. That's the great thing about football. I will give you my honest opinion on how I view the teams from the outside. But as a fan, you should optimistic.

Will (Sykesville, MD)

James, just wanted to say RAVENS 16-0!!!!! SUPERBOWL BOUND!!! WOO!!!

James Walker
  (4:37 PM)

You might be my next "Homer of the Week." We will see.

Mark (Baltimore)

James, do you think the ravens would consider signing another lockdown corner in FA to have a shutdown secondary? Say...J. Joseph, or cromartie? I understand nnamdi is too pricey

James Walker
  (4:39 PM)

No, I think Jimmy Smith was their answer. I wouldn't rule out a return of Chris Carr or someone like that. But they have to throw the money truck at Haloti Ngata this offseas. So I don't see them giving out a ton for another big-name corner.

James Walker
  (4:39 PM)

No, I think Jimmy Smith was their answer. I wouldn't rule out a return of Chris Carr or someone like that. But they have to throw the money truck at Haloti Ngata this offseas. So I don't see them giving out a ton for another big-name corner.

GP (Orlando)

In light of Benson's recent comments regarding time for Bengals to move on from Palmer, don't you think they should move on from Ced also?

James Walker
  (4:41 PM)

All indications are that Cedric Benson wants to return. The problem was with Benson and Bob Bratkowski, who was let go.

melliott74 (Cape Horn)

A.J. Hawk recently expressed skepticism at the unofficial workouts being organized by some players. What do you think about them? Is the attempt to build camaraderie worth the risks involved?

James Walker
  (4:44 PM)

Melliot, what's up? There are injury risks involved, so I understand what Hawk is saying. But you also have players boxing and riding bulls in their free time, where there's probably a bigger risk. Overall, I think it's good for players to try to do something together. It doesn't have to be everyday.

Matt (Florence, SC)

Any chance you bloggers will have a power rankings for Offensive or defensive coordinators?

James Walker
  (4:45 PM)

I'm not at liberty to reveal what we have in store. But there's more Power Rankings coming up. I'm sure no one expected ESPN.com to rank helmets, did you?

Brian (Dover, DE)

James, What is the likelihood of McFadden starting at CB for the Steelers if football ever resumes?

James Walker
  (4:48 PM)

Most likely that will be the case, Brian. Bryant McFadden is Pittsburgh's top CB under contract right now. So if Ike Taylor isn't re-signed, his role will increase. If Taylor returns, I still expect McFadden to be the starter. I don't think any of those rookie mid-round picks will beat him out in training camp.

thefinalcut813 (Cincinnati)

So I guess Chad's contract had nothing in fine print about riding a bull?The Bengals can not be happy right?

James Walker
  (4:50 PM)

During the lockout, Chad technically can do whatever he wants. I'm sure if he's under contract he would not be riding a bull or trying out for a soccer team.

Patrick (Dayton OH)

james how did you not vote for the Browns helmet. possibly the best in the NFL

James Walker
  (4:52 PM)

There's really no point in debating something that's up to personal preference. Personally, I'm not a fan of the Browns helmets. But that's my taste. I'm won't knock anyone who thinks orange/brown are great colors for football.

Ryan (Nashville)

Do you see Lardarius Webb as a potential future star? He and Smith could make the best cornerback tandem.

James Walker
  (4:55 PM)

Webb can be a future starter, yes. But this is a big year for him. I want to see more and I want to see him stay healthy. There is certainly an opening in Baltimore for him to play a role in the secondary.

Patrick (Dayton OH)

No love for the Browns this week. Do you believe that the Browns are the worst team in the NFL?

James Walker
  (4:57 PM)

I don't believe the Browns are the NFL's worst team. But they do still have a lot of holes to fill. Free agency will be important for Cleveland.

James Walker
  (4:59 PM)

Everyone, thanks again for your time. Remember to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter for constant updates.