The Super Bowl came and went just three weeks ago, but it feels like a lifetime has passed since the Philadelphia Eagles bested the New England Patriots. Once the game had ended, it was on to the next matter of business, and in the NFL, that business is, well, business: The first day in which teams can use the franchise tag was February 20, the Scouting Combine begins next week and free agency starts in less than a month. It’s roster evaluation time for all 32 teams. Here’s the latest on those efforts around the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens: The Baltimore Ravens are among the numerous teams that need considerable receiving help this year; indeed, it has become somewhat of a trend for the Ravens, one they hope they can finally break during the 2018 offseason. However, one option appears to be off the board with the Miami Dolphins opting to franchise tag slot receiver Jarvis Landry earlier this week.
Baltimore Beatdown’s Dustin Cox takes a look at other veteran receivers who the Ravens could target in the coming month, including those who are headed for free agency and those who could be released from their current contracts. One name not on Cox’s list—but who is squarely on Evan Mazza’s radar—is Dez Bryant. Bryant may have to take a pay cut to remain with the Dallas Cowboys this year; if he doesn’t, Mazza wants the Ravens to seriously consider bringing Bryant aboard. And don’t be surprised if the Dolphins try to tag-and-trade Landry, which would again make him a candidate for Baltimore. Logan Levy, however, does not think this would be the wise move.
Also: A soon-to-be Ravens free agent has decided to switch positions. Tight end Crockett Gillmore is making the move to offensive line, having bulked up to 305 pounds while training with former NFL offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, reports Kyle J. Andrews, citing numerous sources. But while the position switch may intrigue the Ravens, there’s no indication just yet that Gillmore’s decision will influence Baltimore to re-sign him this spring.
Pittsburgh Steelers: In 2017, Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Martavis Bryant was openly frustrated with his playing time and requested to be traded. That never happened; the Steelers were clear that trading Bryant was not on the trading block in 2017.
However, the tune may have changed with the calendar year. Behind the Steel Curtain’s Jeff Hartman comments on a report that the Dolphins, New York Jets and the Indianapolis Colts are among the teams who have already come calling. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport also believes the Steelers could be shopping Bryant, who has just a $705,000 base salary this year. While Pittsburgh isn’t in a bad enough salary cap situation to assume Bryant is as good as gone, if he’s still unhappy then that may be argument enough to move on.
Also: It wasn’t just a talking point in 2017: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was indeed much more efficient a passer when at home than on the road, with Jeff Hartman noting that the differences were even more apparent when it came to his deep-passing accuracy. Perhaps utilizing more run-pass options under new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner can improve all aspects of Pittsburgh’s offense, including Roethlisberger’s on-the-road performance.
Cincinnati Bengals: The independent arbitrator’s ruling on Cincinnati Bengals backup quarterback A.J. McCarron was of high interest to Cleveland Browns fans, given that the Browns and Bengals nearly completed a trade to send McCarron to Cleveland last fall. Now that McCarron will be an unrestricted free agent, it’s a good time to take a look at how this all came about; the staff at Cincy Jungle provides a complete primer.
Also: The loss of McCarron will have further implications when it comes to how the Bengals will approach the offseason. Jason Marcum details why losing McCarron will mean even less free agency activity is likely for the Bengals this spring. They could still mine free agency for offensive line talent; Marcum addresses the rumors that Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell could be the perfect veteran fit. If not, Anthony Cosenza makes an argument for Cedric Ogbuehi moving to guard instead.