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State of the AFC North: Browns players to test market; Steelers to replace fan favorite; Ravens sticky situation

The Ravens are going to have to make some tough decisions on overpaid, under performing players. The Browns might have some talented free agents test the market. Pittsburgh is left with some big shoes to fill after Heath Miller's retirement.

Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

There's still a few months before the draft but the Ravens have already narrowed their decision down to players. The Browns' talks with some of their key free agents have stalled, leaving speculation that they will test the market. And, the Steelers are now figuring out how to replace Heath Miller.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have been very generous to their players over the past to seasons. But it may come back to haunt them this offseason. The Ravens are getting set to manage Joe Flacco's $28.55 million dollar cap hit and plan to talk to his agent during the combine but they also have big cap hits tied to Lardarius WebbJimmy Smith, and Dennis Pitta.

Webb and Pitta have had some well documented troubles staying healthy. Webb has become a fairly valuable player when he is out there though, especially after his switch to safety, but Pitta has had a hip injury that has left him sidelined for all but seven games over the past two years.The Ravens have drafted two tight ends in the last two years including Crockett Gillmore, who had a solid year last season but underwent surgery on both shoulders. Additionally, Nick Boyle who was drafted in 2015 was just suspended 10 games for violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, for the second time in two years. Still, it is becoming harder and harder though to justify Pitta's $7.2 million dollar cap hit when the team is trying to avoid letting a talented player like Kelechi Osemele walk in free agency.

The Ravens also made headlines this week when they announced they've already narrowed down their choice for their first round, sixth overall, draft pick to two players.

"We feel like we know who the top six guys will be in the draft, at least we feel like we have it narrowed to the two guys that we would probably pick," Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said Thursday via ESPN.

Obviously, they're not saying who those two players are, but it's very interested that they claim their mind is made up before the Combine workouts and Pro Days begin.

Additionally, on Thursday, multiple sources, including head coach John Harbaugh himself, confirmed the Ravens are bringing in veteran running back Trent Richardson for a physical. They will sign him if he passes and it will be Richardson's third team in his fifth NFL season. After a promising rookie season in Cleveland, Richardson was shipped to the Colts for a first round pick, but disappointed in Indianapolis. He had a preseason stint with the Oakland Raiders in 2015, but was released before the regular season. The Ravens need to fill their roster with cheap options considering their minimal cap space, so Richardson could be a good option for offseason depth.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns have a new regime stepping in and with that there could be some big play personnel turnover. Two players have hinted heavily that they'll be hitting the open market: Tashaun Gipson and Travis Benjamin. The duo may be looking to join new teams this offseason. Benjamin may have seen the weak free agent class of wide receivers and increase in cap space this offseason and decided it may be in his best interest to see what he can get on the open market. It isn't a bad idea. If Alshon Jeffery doesn't make it to the open market, Benjamin and Marvin Jones will be the top free agents at the position. Benjamin's value is increased further due to his speed and return abilities. If the Browns don't re-sign Benjamin, expect them to make a push for Marvin Jones and/or Mohamed Sanu.

For Gipson it is a different story. He seems very motivated to return, but the Browns aren't reciprocating those feelings, yet. Gipson will be one of the more sought after players at one of the most important positions in modern football. It's hard to imagine Eric Berry leaving the chiefs, and after him George Iloka is one of the most talented safeties under 30 on the market. The Browns would be smart to bring Gipson back since safeties are hard to come by.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Heath Miller has retired, leaving a hole in the Steelers' roster and Steelers' fans' hearts. Miller was a steady cog in the Steelers' machine since he was drafted in 2005. He has always been a big part of the Steelers' offense, even as it transformed into more of a quick passing attack. He was a true throwback as he may have been a better blocker than pass catcher. Which is really saying something since he could do some real damage in the passing game. Now, the Steelers will look to replace him and Jesse James sits atop the tight end depth chart. He played in eight games last season, but was drafted with the possibility of Miller retiring role in mind. His sample size is fairly small to say whether he can or can't take over the starting spot and be successful. Either way Pittsburgh would be wise to add another young tight end for depth at least. It would also add some insurance in case James isn't up to the task.

The Steelers are also being cautious regarding the return of Le'Veon Bell for the 2016 season. "We can't even say he'll be ready for the regular season because we won't know that until he goes through the whole process," General manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday at the NFL combine via ESPN. "His health and his ability to return at 100 percent is the most important."

Some are questioning whether Bell will even be able to return to his pre-injury form.