Around the AFC North: Legal Troubles Plague Ravens

Tom Szczerbowski

The Ravens have a pair of players dealing with legal troubles, while the Browns could be eyeing the NFL draft's top wide receiver.

Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Saturday he is willing to give running back Ray Rice a second chance, but that the video of him allegedly hitting his fiancee doesn't look good.

Rice is facing criminal chargers and likely an NFL suspension to go with it. The team is in a bind with his contract though, as cutting him would cause a 5$ million cap hit, something the Ravens don't want as they try to rebuild and get back into the playoffs.

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The Cleveland Browns have a number of key free agents, but re-signing center Alex Mack is the team's No. priority.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that the Browns want to keep Mack, one of league's best centers, from hitting the free agent market. The Browns do have other deals they want to get done, such as signing All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden to a long-term extension. For now though, re-singing Mack is the primary focus.

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As for the draft, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins said the Browns drafting him with the fourth overall pick would be a "great decision."

Watkins interviewed with the Browns at the NFL Scouting Combine, and the team is in need of another receiver to pair alongside Josh Gordon. Those two together could be the best WR tandem in the NFL if they were to draft him, but No. 4 is a little high for where Watkins projects to go.

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Rice isn't the only Raven facing criminal charges, as WR Deonte Thompson was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance Saturday night in Florida.

Thompson was expected to contribute to a thin WR crops, but he appeared in just seven games with the Ravens in 2013 as a reserve WR and special teamer. Don't expect to see him on the opening-day 53-man roster in 2014. Thompson played at Florida and was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

"We are aware of the situation," said Ravens team spokesman Chad Steele. "We are gathering more facts. There are two sides to every story."

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