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June 21, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with James Walker

James Walker
  (4:00 PM)

Happy summer everyone. Let's talk about the latest in the AFC North.

JO Wilson (Jackson,ms)

With the first game in baltimore they sohuld win the division because over the past couple years they cryed about coming to the burgh what do u think about that?

James Walker
  (4:01 PM)

The first game will set the tone. But it's too early in the season to predict the winner will take the AFC North. It's a big division game. But it's still just one out of 16 games. A lot can happen after that.

gt [via mobile]

How much longer do you think the lock out will be in place ?

James Walker
  (4:03 PM)

I think we are reaching the final days of the lockout. Both sides are getting close to reaching a deal. It won't happen overnight. But I think early or mid July is a realistic goal for both sides.

Dr. House (Bloomsburg, PA)

Dr. Walker here is a differential diagnosis for you... 3yrs, 53% comp percentage, 4tds 7Ints (2 in chiefs game), 1000yds, 0-2 vs Steelers. Patients name: playoff J. Flacco. Was L. Woodley wrong?

James Walker
  (4:05 PM)

No one argued Woodley's point that Joe Flacco has struggled against the Steelers. I think Flacco and most Ravens fans had a problem with Woodley saying he will never get past the Steelers in his lifetime. That's a pretty strong statement. It also says Flacco will not get any better against his biggest rival, and I'm not sure that's a fair statement at this stage of his career.

Nathan (DC)

Another RB question--do you think McGahee is really done in Baltimore?

James Walker
  (4:07 PM)

At his current salary of $6 million, yes. The Ravens would like to have Willis McGahee back. But they want to pay him backup money, which fits the role he's playing in Baltimore. It will be up to McGahee to decide if he wants to return to the Ravens at a lower rate or explore his options in free agency.

Rachel (Hattiesburg)

James, is Flacco the best QB in the AFC North in your opinion? Also, where will Palmer be playing next year? Thanks.

James Walker
  (4:09 PM)

Ben Roethlisberger is the best quarterback in the AFC North, and right now it's by a pretty fair margin. Joe Flacco would be second. I am taking Mike Brown at his word that Carson Palmer plays for the Bengals or he plays for no one next season. Brown's history with players doesn't give me any reason to doubt him.

L.A in L.A [via mobile]

I for one don't care if there is a season or not. College is more interesting and all around better than the NFL anyway. It's not that there's no team in L.A but I am just tired of the whiners and I actually hope the league never gets started. What's your opinion?

James Walker
  (4:11 PM)

L.A. I understand that your city hasn't had football for a long time and it sounds like you don't root for any team. If there is no attachment, there is no urgency. I do enjoy NFL football very much. It is my favorite sport and a huge reason why I cover it for a living. I want football to return like most sports fans in this country.

Nathan (DC)

The Browns happy with their group of running backs, or are there going to be changes there?

James Walker
  (4:13 PM)

The Browns are optimistic in Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. They will need some luck with avoiding injuries this year, but both backs are talented. Cleveland still wants to add a third-down tailback through free agency. So look for Cleveland to add another running back this summer when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

Tom (Manhattan)

Which FB would fit better in Baltimore, Vickers or Leach?

James Walker
  (4:14 PM)

Both are very good fullbacks and good fits. I know exactly what Lawrence Vickers brings, because I covered his entire career in Cleveland. I think his skills and mentality would be perfect in Baltimore.

Mr. W (Dallas)

Which team has the most glaring needs that must be addressed during FA? Whats the need?

James Walker
  (4:16 PM)

All four teams still have needs heading into free agency. But I think the Steelers, more than any division team, needs to figure out their cornerback situation. Is Ike Taylor returning? If not, are the young corners ready to step up or will Pittsburgh have to sign another veteran like Carlos Rogers or Richard Marshall?

Andrew (New Jersey)

Since the Steelers already "franchised" LaMarr Woodley, is resigning Ike Taylor their new number 1 offseason priority? If not, who do they get to replace him?

James Walker
  (4:19 PM)

Yes, Taylor and the cornerback situation is the top priority. Woodley is scheduled to make $10 million under the tag this year and he told me at the Super Bowl he is fine with that. (Who wouldn't be?) It doesn't mean Pittsburgh won't discuss an extension with Woodley. It just means that fixing the corner spot is at the top of its list, especially with a short offseason.

Greg (Cairo,Egypt)

James do you think the browns will be able to sign Phil Dawson to a long term contact? I've always been a fan of his and he's been IMO the most underrated kicker in the NFL. I'd like to see him finish his career as a Brown. Your thoughts?

James Walker
  (4:21 PM)

Dawson hasn't made any public comments since the season ended. But at that time, Dawson sounded like a player who had enough with the losing and regime changes. He's one of the few players who didn't sign his franchise tender. That says a lot about what he's currently thinking.

Ryan (Potomac, MD)

The list of top assistant coaches came out and I'm wondering why Dick Lebeau was not on it. As a ravens fan, i wonder why whenever we have a good assistant coach, he is soon going to another team to head coach while Lebeau continues to stay in pittsburgh. Why is there no interest in him as a head coach?

James Walker
  (4:22 PM)

The list was for "up-and-coming assistant coaches." Those are the people who will likely get head-coaching jobs in the next few seasons. Dick LeBeau has been there and done that in Cincinnati. He is coaching on a year-to-year basis and is close to retirement.

Mitch (Tallmadge, OH)

I would not be opposed to the Browns taking Pryor in the supplemental draft, not much risk with a 4th round pick on the line. Do you see him going to a team as QB or as a tremendous athlete they can try out at WR or other positions.

James Walker
  (4:26 PM)

We agree completely, Mitch. A team will draft Pryor as a quarterback and give him a year or two to see if he can progress. If not, Pryor will be moved to another position, like receiver, to see if he can succeed there. Keep in mind, Pryor is probably going to sign a 3-4 year contract with a team. So there will be some time to figure out what he brings at the next level.

Tom (Manhattan)

What can we expect Ngata's deal to look like once its all settled?

James Walker
  (4:28 PM)

Look at the framework of Albert Haynesworth's contract and Ndamukong Suh's contract, and Haloti Ngata's will probably land somewhere in between.

Bengal Fan (wearing Paper Bag)

Is there ANY hope the Bengals will be more than a 4-12 team with what looks like a ton of rookies on Opening Day?

James Walker
  (4:31 PM)

There are some reasons for optimism, Bengals fan. They have some young talent on the team people should be excited about. Whether they win four games or more will depend largely on if Andy Dalton can play in the NFL. He fits what the Bengals want to run. I don't see the Bengals contending for the division, but a lot has to go wrong again for them to finish 4-12.

Nicolas (georgia) [via mobile]

How do you think the browns will fair this season??

James Walker
  (4:32 PM)

It's too early to make any predictions, Nicolas. Get back to me after free agency, training camp and the preseason.

Jon (Reading, PA)

Limas Sweed has had a horrible start as a Steeler caused by injury and mental breakdowns. Do you think he will be able to rebound and step up this season?

James Walker
  (4:34 PM)

Limas Sweed needs a lot of breaks to contribute this year. There are several players in front of him (Young Money) who proved they can step up in big spots. At this point, Sweed's focus should be on getting his head right and simply making the team.

Ike (Pittsburgh)

Mr. Walker I highly value your opinion. Should I take the money or the hometown discount?

James Walker
  (4:37 PM)

Ike, you do what's best for you and your family. This is probably the last big contract you will receive in your career.

Mike (Cincinnati)

With Palmer retiring what are the chances the Bengals bring in Donivan Mcnabb if he is released?

James Walker
  (4:38 PM)

If Palmer retires, the Bengals will go with rookie QB Andy Dalton. Cincy may try to sign a veteran backup for insurance but not another starter.

Mike (Cincinnati)

Who has the Best Group Of young Receivers in the AFC North James?

James Walker
  (4:39 PM)

The Browns.

James Walker
  (4:39 PM)

Just kidding. The Steelers.

T Bone (South Cincinnati)

Any chance Carson reverses his stance and comes back for 1 more try with the Bengals?

James Walker
  (4:41 PM)

It's always possible. I've seen several players think about retirement and get the itch closer to football season. Last year, Ed Reed seemed very sincere about retirement and realized he was just emotional after a tough playoff loss. But Palmer's situation is different. He doesn't want to retire. He just doesn't want to play for the Bengals. I expect him to hold his ground.

Mike (Cincinnati)

Who will make more money this year in free agency, Jonathan Joseph or Ike Taylor?

James Walker
  (4:43 PM)

Johnathan Joseph is younger. So he should get more years, and thus more money, on his contract.

Namdi (Bmore)

If I teamed up with Jimmy Smith, and Ed Reed, would it be virtually impossible to pass on the Ravens D?

James Walker
  (4:46 PM)

This is the second week in a row Nnamdi can't spell his name right. Interesting.

Eddie (Beaufort, SC)

Do you like the AFC North's chances of getting 3 in the playoffs this year? If so, who you left out?

James Walker
  (4:48 PM)

This question gets asked every year, and mathematically it's just tough to do. Right now, I only see two playoff contenders in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. I don't expect the Browns or Bengals to make the playoffs this year. Both teams are rebuilding.

Kovacs (Santa Monica)

I saw you put Chud and Mel Tucker in your up and coming coaches: interesting considering neither was much in his time with the Browns. I did like some of the schemes Chud threw out there though.

James Walker
  (4:52 PM)

Sometimes coaches are at the mercy of the talent they have to work with. Rob Chudzinski's best year was when the Browns finally had lightning in a bottle at quarterback in 2007 with Derek Anderson. Suddenly, Chud was great. Tucker never had much in Cleveland on defense but he can coach.

James Walker
  (4:53 PM)

Rob Ryan is another example. I expect him to do very well this year with DeMarcus Ware and Co. in Dallas.

David (Miami)

Just read your article on Big Ben's HOF debate. Do you think with one more ring he'll be a lock for Canton?

James Walker
  (4:55 PM)

Every quarterback that has won three Super Bowls has gone to the Hall of Fame. There's no reason why Ben Roethlisberger would be the exception.

Dave (Maryland)

Can the Steelers O Line pull it together fo a championship run?

James Walker
  (4:58 PM)

Pittsburgh's offensive line woes have never held the team back before. The Steelers want to improve in this area, and I think it will make them even stronger if that's the case.

James Walker
  (4:58 PM)

Pittsburgh's offensive line woes have never held the team back before. The Steelers want to improve in this area, and I think it will make them even stronger if that's the case.

Darrell (Dallas)

Most overated and underated players in AFC North.

James Walker
  (4:59 PM)

Underrated? I would say Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth. Overrated? I have to think about that one.

James Walker
  (5:00 PM)

Everyone, thanks again for your time this week. Make sure to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter for constant updates on the division.