clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

State of AFC North: Alex Mack voids deal; Joe Flacco restructures; Le'Veon Bell drops a mixtape

The Ravens finally restructured Joe Flacco's deal, and he'll be getting big money. Alex Mack has opted out of the final three years of his deal, but he might not be going anywhere. The Steelers will have to let a talented young player go due to cap restraint.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals' AFC North foes have kept themselves pretty busy over the past week. The Ravens finally restructured Joe Flacco's deal, but they really had to pay for it. Browns center Alex Mack voided the final three years of his contract and will become a free agent. The Steelers will have to make a tough choice on whether to keep their young talented tackle, Kelvin Beachum, or their veteran guard who was valuable for them last season, Ramon Foster. Plus Le'Veon Bell dropped a mixtape. Yes, you read that right.

Baltimore Ravens

The most important thing the Ravens had to do before free agency was somehow restructure Flacco's contract to lessen his $28.5 million cap hit this season. They did that on Wednesday saving themselves $6 million in cap space. The deal also extends Flacco until 2021 and created $13 million more in cap space over the next two seasons for the team. One of the bigger takeaways from this is how much the Ravens actually had to pay to do this. Per's Jason La Canfora

Flacco received a record $40 million signing bonus and gets $44 million guaranteed in year one of this new deal alone. The total new money on the contract (meaning the new money he is signed for beyond what he was already owed) is a record $66.4 million, or $22.1 million per new year, again, you guessed it, a record. For the full six years of his deal, Flacco averages over $20 million per year.

That is quite the price, but it could be worth it for the Ravens who may make a run to retain Kelechi Osemele or add another contributor via free agency. Once they put the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker last week, the Ravens needed to restructure Flacco's deal to increase their cap space to be able to resign Osemele and pick up other players this offseason.

Another cap saving move that many expected won't be coming, at least not yet. Last week the possibility of cutting Ladarius Webb was discussed because of his $9.5 million cap hit next season. But, Ozzie Newsome has shot down that notion.

"He will be a starting safety at that {cap} number. If you watch some of the numbers that some of the safeties are going to get in free agency, you'll realize we have him at a very good number," Newsome said via ESPN's Jamison Hensley.

Webb is transitioning over from the corner back position. He could show that he is well worth what the Ravens are paying him, but right now it is a pretty fair risk for the Ravens to assume Webb will become the safety they think he will while having him account for as much of the cap as he does.

Todd McShay released an updated mock draft following the NFL Combine, and he has them drafting a player to help protect the Ravens' biggest investment, Flacco. His pick is Ronnie Stanley, an offensive tackle out of Notre Dame and while Stanley isn't considered a finished product, he is widely considered the second best offensive tackle in the draft because of his upside. Obviously, Eugene Monroe hasn't worked out the way Baltimore had hoped, so it makes sense for them to take action in making sure Flacco is standing upright as much as possible.

Cleveland Browns

One of the biggest stories from Wednesday was Mack voiding the final three years of his contract to become a free agent this offseason. This news is also quickly met with the knowledge that a return is very possible. This is something that during the season you would've laughed at, but the Browns could have made themselves a very attractive suitor for the now 30-year-old center who is still arguably one of the best in the league. The Browns did this with the stellar hire of Hue Jackson. Many Bengals fans already know how well respected Jackson is around the league, especially as an offensive mind. Jackson has already received support from Joe Thomas earlier this offseason, so it isn't far fetched to think he can convince another of his talented linemen to stay.

If the Browns lose Mack, second year player Cameron Erving, who the Browns spent a first round pick on in last year's draft, would likely take his spot. Even though Erving had his very well documented struggles during his rookie season, Jackson has experience covering up a weak link in the middle of the offensive line.

Also, with Mack's contract voided, the Browns have $49.9 million in cap to work with in free agency. Jackson could be the recruiter the Browns need to actually lure in a few key guys in free agency. They could also use that space to try and retain several key starters from last season set to hit free agency themselves. Those players include Tashaun Gipson, Travis Benjamin and Mitchell Schwartz who was an important piece at right tackle for the Browns last season. Since Gipson and Benjamin were discussed last week let's just talk about why the Browns would be foolish to let Schwartz hit the open market. First, let's talk about how valuable right tackles have become in a league where teams are throwing pass rushers at your quarterback from every direction. Additionally, the Browns have an abundance of cap space to possibly overpay him, if that's what it takes, to make sure their tackles are set for the next four to five years. That would be quite the luxury with a rookie quarterback likely coming in next season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers currently have $8.4 million in cap space and plenty of key free agents hitting the open market. This will lead to some tough personnel decisions. One of the most obvious decisions that will need to be made is regarding the left side of the Steelers' offensive line with Beachum and Foster. Nathaniel Bodnar of Behind The Steel Curtain suggests "the team move on from the younger Kelvin Beachum and keep the veteran guard Ramon Foster. This move would not only be smart from a financial standpoint but rather for a stronger depth."

I would say the move makes a lot of sense financially considering Beachum would take up far more cap space than Foster, and the Steelers have a backup who filled in quite nicely while Beachum was hurt last season in Alejandro Villanueva. It is a tough call, but the right call is to let Beachum walk and use the money they save to try and re-sign one of their three free agent corners in Antwon Blake, William Gay, and Brandon Boykin.

Since the Steelers will likely lose at least one or two of those corners, it makes sense that Todd McShay has them going corner in the first round in his latest mock draft. Mackensie Alexander out of Clemson was McShay's pick for the Steelers, and it's an obvious need for Pittsburgh. The Steelers could always go front seven or add some much needed depth along the offensive line, but they may be fighting an uphill battle at the corner position if the don't draft someone early. Interestingly, the Bengals met with Alexander at the Combine.