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NFL Free Agency 2015: AFC North Recap and Offseason Analysis

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A wild first week of NFL free agency had every AFC North team other than the Bengals losing at least one key starter from the previous year.

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A week into the 2015 free agency period, the sentiment of many Bengals fans is one of frustration and confusion. Where is the more aggressive strategy the team promised? What is the team doing with all of its cap space?

While getting Michael Johnson back is great, the Bengals have signed just one other outside free agent and he’s a 31-year old-backup linebacker. However, despite the frustration of Bengals fans, the Bengals have clearly been the most active and aggressive team in the AFC North during the 2015 offseason and they are the only team that has not lost more than they kept/gained.

While grading of an offseason is a pointless exercise, it is fun, so one week into free agency we take a look at how each AFC North team has fared:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Remaining Cap Space (per overthecap.com): $7.2M

Re-Signed:

Arthur Moats - LB
Matt Spaeth - TE

Additions:

DeAngelo Williams - RB (Car)

Subtractions:

Brice McCain - CB (Mia)
Jason Worilds - LB (Retired)
Brett Keisel - DE (Released)
Lance Moore - WR (Released)

Notable Unsigned Players:

Ike Taylor - CB
Darrius Heyward-Bey - WR
Will Allen - S
James Harrison - LB
Antwon Blake - CB (RFA--Tendered at lowest-round level)
Robert Golden - S (RFA--Tendered at lowest-round level)
Will Johnson - FB (RFA--Tendered at lowest-round level)

Other Moves of Note:

Ben Roethlisberger (Re-structured contract)
Dick LeBeau (DC - Resigned)
Troy Polumaulu (likely to be cut)

Offseason Analysis:

Bengals fans have to feel good about the moves/lack thereof made by the Steelers. The Steelers are attempting to get younger by releasing/choosing not to re-sign aging veterans like Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel and possibly Troy Polumaulu. While those players are no longer the players they once were, they will not be easily replaced.

Combined with the surprise retirement of Jason Worilds and resignation of Dick LeBeau, the Steelers have certainly not taken any steps forward in the 2015 offseason - and likely have taken a step or two back. The signing of a 32-year-old backup running back, and re-signing Moats and Spaeth are not going to get the Steelers faithful very excited.

Cincinnati Bengals

Remaining Cap Space (per overthecap.com): $24M

Re-Signed:

Clint Boling - LG
Rey Maualuga - LB
Mike Nugent - K
Eric Winston -OT

Additions:

Michael Johnson - DE
A.J. Hawk - LB

Subtractions:

Robert Geathers - DE (Released)
Marshall Newhouse - OT (NYG)
Mike Pollak - OG (Released)

Notable Unsigned Players:

Emmanuel Lamur - LB (RFA--tendered at second round level of compensation)
Jermaine Gresham -TE
Terence Newman - CB
Jason Campbell - QB
Dane Sanzenbacher - WR
Cedric Peerman - RB
Brandon Tate - WR
Taylor Mays - S
Alex Smith - TE
Devon Still - DT (Bengals have reportedly extended a one-year deal that he is considering)
Greg Little - WR

Chris Lewis-Harris -- CB (ERFA--tendered)

Offseason Analysis:

Bengals fans weren't excited by the team’s offseason until Sunday's re-signing of Michael Johnson, but the re-signing of Boling, Maualuga, Nugent and Winston also keeps together a team that was a fumble away from winning the division in 2014 and with the subtractions the other teams in the North have experienced, that is encouraging.

Hawk, while on the wrong side of his career, is a good veteran signing, which adds depth to a position of weakness and provides an insurance policy against Burfict's bum knee. If the Bengals can land another free-agent contributor and have a successful draft, Bengals fans should feel confident entering the 2015 season.

Baltimore Ravens

Remaining Cap Space (per overthecap.com): $9.3M

Re-Signed:

Justin Forsett - RB
Christo Bilukidi - DE

Additions:

Kendrick Lewis - S

Subtractions:

Haloti Ngata - DT (Traded to Detroit)
Torrey Smith - WR (SF)
Pernell McPhee - DE (Chi)
Owen Daniels - TE (Den)
Tyrod Taylor - QB (Buf)
Darian Stewart - S (Den)
Chris Canty - DE (Released)
Jacoby Jones - WR (SD)
Terrence Cody - DT (Released)

Notable Unsigned Players:

Justin Tucker - K (RFA--Tendered at second round level)
Antoine Cason - CB
Will Hill - S (RFA--Tendered at original round level)
Jeromy Miles - S
Aaron Ross - S

Other Moves of Note:

Picked up a 4th and 5th round pick from the Lions (Ngata trade)
Gary Kubiak - OC (HC in Den)
Marc Trestman - New OC (Formerly Chi HC)

Offseason Analysis:

No team in the division has lost more in the offseason than the Baltimore Ravens. While they did pick up a couple day three draft picks for Haloti Ngata, the fact of the matter is that the Ravens have lost all three starting defensive lineman (Ngata, McPhee and Canty), their number two receiver (and deep threat), Torrey Smith, their backup tight end (Daniels), a starting safety (Stewart) and their offensive coordinator.

With only $9 million under the 2015 cap, the Ravens can't afford to replace much either. For a team that squeaked into the playoffs as the six seed, that is troublesome. For the Bengals, the Ravens offseason is good news.

Cleveland Browns

Remaining Cap Space (per overthecap.com): $41.2M

Re-Signed:

Shaun Draughn - RB
Marlon Moore - WR

Additions:

Josh McCown - QB (TB)
Brian Hartline - WR (Mia)
Thaddeus Lewis - QB (Hou)

Subtractions:

Jordan Cameron - TE (Mia)
Jabaal Sheard - DE (NE)
Brian Hoyer - QB (Hou)
Buster Skrine - CB (NYJ)
Miles Austin (unsigned)
Jim Leonhard (unsigned)
Paul McQuistan - OG (Released)

Notable Unsigned Players:

Tashaun Gipson - S (RFA--Reportedly tendered at second round level)
Miles Austin – WR
Johnson Bademosi - DB (RFA--Tendered at unknown level)
Sione Fua – DT
Jim Leonhard – S
Craig Robertson - LB (RFA--Reportedly tendered at second-round level)
Ahtyba Rubin - DT

Ishmaa'ily Kitchen -- DL (RFA -- Tendered at unknown level)

Other Moves of Note:

Johnny Manziel (Rehab)
Kyle Shanahan OC - (Left for OC position in Atl)
John DeFilippo - New OC (Former QB Coach - Oak)

Offseason Analysis:

If the Ravens lost the most this offseason, the Browns are a close second. A team that was already in disarray at the end of the season, the Browns saw their prized 2014 draft pick and future franchise quarterback (Manziel) enter rehab, they let their veteran quarterback (Hoyer) walk, they lost their pro bowl tight end (Cameron), a number two corner (Skrines), a starting defensive end (Sheard), a quality veteran backup safety (Leonhard) and a young offensive coordinator.

Throw in the pending discipline for the Browns GM and this is a team that is yet again in turmoil. The signing of Hartline is a quality pickup, but replacing Hoyer with a lifetime journeyman quarterback, who oversaw a 4-12 Buccaneers team last year is hardly an offseason that will get the Dawgpound excited. But hey, they did get two new logos, a new shade of orange and they have a boatload of cap space to spend at will - even if don’t spent it wisely.

2015 AFC North Free Agency Week 1 Winner

Bengals - This is not a homer pick, just common sense. Every other team in the AFC North lost at least three starters and a coordinator. The Bengals, on the other hand, are set to only lose two starters (Gresham and Newman) and both players were not re-signed because the team has a young first round draft pick ready to take over their roles (Eifert and Dennard/Kirkpatrick).

As surprised as Bengals fans may be, Week 1 of free agency, though not as Bengals fan drew it up, goes to their very own Cincinnati Bengals.