With the offseason here, we check in with what's going on around the AFC North.
James Harrison says he's interested in returning to play another season with Pittsburgh, but how much of an impact will he have? The Ravens have to restructure Joe Flacco's contract in order to bounce back next season and make room to sign the rest of their free agents. NFL quarterback prospect Jared Goff is warming up to the idea of being drafted by Cleveland.
- Dennis Pitta isn't giving up on an NFL return, yet
- Why the Ravens have to rework Joe Flacco's contract
- Ravens could lose the top rated free agent offensive lineman
The Ravens have a tall task heading into the offseason. They have to bounce back from a 5-11 season, re-sign several key free agents and nail their early draft picks to catch back up with the Steelers and Bengals. The only way they can do this is by adjusting the cause of the problem, Joe Flacco's contract. The Ravens currently have $6.3 million in cap space, according to overthecap.com, and the easiest way to create more space is to rework Flacco's contract that currently accounts for a $28.5 million hit this season. If the Ravens can't create more space they could lose out on key internal free agents like Kelechi Osemele, Kamar Aiken and Justin Tucker.
The Ravens would be severely restricted in free agency if they carried Flacco's current cap number given that Baltimore is projected to be over the cap after you factor in the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker ($4.5 million) and a second-round tender on restricted free agent Kamar Aiken ($2.5 million).
Baltimore would be facing an uphill battle, and they wouldn't be able to add as many impact players as they'd like if Flacco refuses to restructure his deal. But, it's really in his best interest to agree to restructuring the deal so the Ravens can put the players in place to help the team bounce-back.
- Jared Goff "excited" to possibly play for Cleveland
- Hue Jackson seeking out Jim Brown's advice
- 2 Browns free agents rank among the top 75
One of this year's top quarterback prospects, Jared Goff was asked by Peter King his thoughts on the Browns potentially selecting him in this year's draft. Goff responded with the politically correct answer:
"I'm not worried about it. I'm excited about it. Whatever team I go to, I'll be excited to go. I want to be the future of a franchise. I think I can be a guy who can make an impact right away."
- James Harrison will be back for one more season
- Ryan Shazier could have a major impact next season
- Steelers have 3 of the top 75 free agents
James Harrison wants to suit up for the Steelers for another season. The news was also followed by a well timed random drug test from the league office. This is big news for the Steelers as Christopher Carter of Behind the Steel Curtain notes:
Despite being 37 years old at the start of the season and coming out of retirement to play for the team in the middle of the 2014 season, Harrison recorded the third most sacks for a team that registered the third most sacks in the NFL this year. He also forced two fumbles, recorded four pass defenses and even made an interception.
It is worth noting that Harrison sent this Tweet after a flurry of stories emerged stating he plans to play in 2016:
Hold up. It's 1 thing to want to come back but it's another to get the body back to where it needs to be. We'll see. https://t.co/34YPjZU5Sh— James Harrison (@jharrison9292) February 16, 2016
It was a big year for Harrison who recorded five sacks for a team that had its sacks spread out among the front seven. The Steelers would be wise not to rely on Harrison being able to play as much of a role as he did this season though on the field. By the start of next season Harrison will be 38-years-old, and even though he takes care of his body as well as anyone in the NFL, there comes a time where father time catches up. But, he also will provide invaluable experience to the young players on the Steelers defense and that may make up for a decline in his play.