On Thursday, Field Yates of ESPN compiled an article discussing one big looming roster decision for each of the 32 teams in the NFL. Let's jump straight to the decisions for the AFC North:
For the Ravens, it is deciding who will be the team's left tackle this season as Joe Flacco returns from a torn ACL -- will it be veteran Eugene Monroe or rookie Ronnie Stanley?
For the Bengals, it's about finding spots for the team's 2015 draft picks. Despite drafting Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher with their top two picks, neither of them were starting offensive linemen. You can't have them both sit in year two as well, right?
For the Steelers, what do they do with RB Le'Veon Bell, who is in the final year of his contract? He's an elite NFL back who has had a couple of injury concerns, but Pittsburgh isn't in the greatest of shape cap-wise.
Lastly, for the Browns...(drumroll)...it's about LT Joe Thomas yet again and whether the club should trade him:
Does a Thomas trade make sense? The Browns nearly shipped All-World left tackle Joe Thomas to Denver just prior to last year's deadline. Does it make sense to explore a trade of Thomas now? He has three years left on his contract and is due up to $29.5 million, an extremely reasonable price tag for a player of his caliber. If Cleveland parted ways with him now -- and the organization is clearly in the middle of a rebuild in which it values draft capital -- it could result in a significant return, with young players and/or draft picks. Keeping Thomas, however, means retaining an outstanding player and an integral part of the locker room from a leadership standpoint.
If the Browns didn't trade him last year and didn't trade him during the draft, they aren't going to trade him leading up to the season. You need that one veteran anchor who ensures things don't completely fall apart, which in turn should improve the evaluation of the players surrounding him.
To me, the real question that should've been asked is, "who is next for the veteran purge?" We've already seen Karlos Dansby, Dwayne Bowe, Donte Whitner, and Brian Hartline receive their walking papers, with Whitner and Hartline both being released after the normal period of free agency. Veterans who could be up for conversation are Paul Kruger, Desmond Bryant, and Tramon Williams. I think Kruger and Bryant have been spoken highly enough by the staff to where they'll both stick around, but Williams is where I'm still undecided. If Joe Haden hadn't been sidelined with an ankle injury, I think Williams might already be off the roster.