Periodically, we like to give our readers updates on the teams in the AFC North. Aside from the reason that not all Bengals fans closely monitor all things AFC North, you have to take into account that the three teams in the division comprise one-third of the Bengals' schedule every year. We feel that getting a pulse on the goings-on in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland is a critical component of a Bengals fan.
+Lets start with the Baltimore Ravens. According to ESPN NFL Insider, Adam Schefter, tight end Dennis Pitta signed his restricted free agent tender on Monday. The one-year deal is worth $2.03 million and there's no doubt that both sides would like to come to a long-term agreement, though with the Ravens up against the salary cap wall, it might not be an immediate possibility. Pitta was an integral player in Baltimore's Super Bowl run last year and is the team's No.1 tight end.
Additionally, the Ravens have hired former St. Louis Rams head coach, Steve Spagnuolo as a defensive consultant. "Spags" created an opportunity for himself as an NFL head coach with his successful stint as the New york Giants defensive coordinator. The Ravens hope that he re-discovers his magic from his days in New York and not so much the ones from his days in St. Louis.
+The Steelers lost one of their beloved family members in Hall of Fame cornerback Jack Butler, as he passed away recently at the age of 85. According to the Twitter account named "NFL Stats", Butler racked up 52 interceptions in his NFL career and played in Pittsburgh from 1952-1959. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year as a senior member and was a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. Food for thought: former Bengals defensive back, Ken Riley, had 65 career interceptions, though he was a Pro Bowl player for only one season.
Another interesting report out of Pittsburgh is the reason surrounding their somewhat-surprising decision to draft Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell instead of Alabama's Eddie Lacy. Recently, an Alabama doctor confirmed that Lacy had a surgery done to "fuse his big toe".
"The joint underneath the toenail was fused to allow the ligament to work better basically," Crimson Tide team doctor E. Lyle Cain Jr. told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tyler Dunne. "It's something you do to give you a better push-off. His big toe moves just like a normal big toe in terms of motion...If you fused it completely, it'd give you a stiff big toe and you can't push off and that's a big problem. In Eddie's case, he does not have that. His fusion does not affect his big-toe motion. The bottom line is, the fusion he had does not affect his big-toe motion."
It's possible that the Bengals knew this information as well and it played a part in their passing on Lacy as well. Mostly though, we think the Bengals were high on Giovani Bernard from the get-go.
+The Cleveland Browns have been entrenched in complete overhaul mode. From the front office to the coaching staff to recent free agent acquistions (Frostee Rucker), no one is immune from at least a glance at their worth. One position of scrutiny is at quarterback, where the future is uncertain for last year's first round pick, Brandon Weeden. Though his rookie year had its ups and downs, Weeden still might be the guy for at least 2013, unless free agent journeyman Jason Campbell can prove to beat him out.
Enter the obligatory Tim Tebow reference. According to new Browns General Manager, Michael Lombardi, the Browns are not one of the teams interested in the southpaw's services. According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Lombardi said "It's (bringing Tebow in) not the vision of where we're headed". So, it appears the the market for Tebow remains extremely limited, given his small sample size of being an NFL starting quarterback and the media circus that would ensue with his arrival.