It's been a busy calendar week for the NFL, as teams have begun conducting OTAs, and that includes news surrounding the AFC North. Let's take a spin around the division for some tidbits that have made headlines of late.
After he was released from Tampa Bay, quarterback Josh McCown was a valued free agent pickup for the Browns. The Johnny Manziel experiment looks to be failing a little more than a year in, after poor play at the end of 2014 and a stint in rehab this spring. Because of those and a myriad of other factors, McCown is the Browns' starter at quarterback.
McCown is pleased not only about being the starter, but that there isn't a brewing quarterback controversy in Cleveland this year. "More than anything, for me, I just believe it takes away from any kind of distraction that you can have and the team can just move in one direction, regardless of who that guy is,'' McCown said last week, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It's helpful to just say, 'this is our guy until something happens and he's not our guy.'
Manziel, Connor Shaw, and Thad Lewis are all under contract at the moment for Cleveland. The coaching staff has intimated that they have already had enough of Manziel's antics, though he has been attempting to sway their opinion with a growing sense of maturity. Regardless, barring something unforeseen, McCown will be the Browns' Week 1 starter.
After a one-year stint in Cincinnati and a brief flirtation with retirement, linebacker James Harrison returned to The Steel City last season. As a rotational player, Harrison was relatively effective in 2014, racking up 5.5 sacks and 45 tackles in 11 games. Both widely-surpassed each 2013 stat total that he had with the Bengals, as he looks to be more comfortable in a system conducive to his strengths.
After an offseason of transition for the Steelers, complete with retirements and other departures, Harrison is taking on the mantle of "defensive leader". Those who have followed Harrison's career know of his incredible work ethic--particularly in the gym. It's that example that has believers out of other young linebackers, Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier.
"Man, it’s unbelievable," said Jones, who enters his third season after being the Steelers’ top pick in the 2013 draft. "He’s in a league of his own. I do what I can do to push myself, and it’s definitely motivation just watching him and seeing the things he does. But, as far as doing the things he does, he’s in a league of his own."
"It’s very impressive," said Shazier, the No. 1 pick last year who added eight pounds working out with Harrison and changing his diet. "We do the workouts, but it’s like his weight is on a whole different level. We all learn from him and do what we can, but we will never be able to lift what he’s lifting."
Harrison is entering his 12th season, 11th with Pittsburgh, and has racked up 71.5 career sacks in that span.
The Ravens picked up veteran cornerback Cassius Vaughn a few days ago to add to their defensive backfield. Vaughn signed a one-year deal with Baltimore for the veteran minimum. Vaughn will join Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson, Kyle Arrington and a couple of others in the secondary.
Vaughn is on his fourth team in six years, after stops in Denver, Indianapolis and Detroit. He has seven career interceptions in 67 games played and was an undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss picked up by the Broncos back in 2010.