The Ravens think they have found a starter in the bargain bin of free agency. The Browns probably won't be good next year, but they should be okay for the Browns. Pittsburgh has made a few moves this offseason, but are they better than they were last season?
The Ravens signed former Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers on Friday to compete for a starting job. Baltimore hopes Powers and rookie Tavon Young can help to improve a secondary that was a weakness for most of the 2015 season. Shareece Wright will put up a fight to keep his job though. Wright managed to find a permanent spot on the Ravens' roster and played pretty well after signing with the team when injuries struck the secondary mid-season. Of course Jimmy Smith will retain his starting spot once he recovers from his recent surgery to take the screws out of his foot.
It never hurts to add a few more perimeter defenders in the AFC North, after all.
The Ravens had a bad season, and proof of that was picking at number six in the Draft, though, their extensive injured reserve list actually says it all. Even though it was a bad season, the Ravens were a few better downs away from having a decent season, but a lot of those downs needed to come from a defense that couldn't get it done. The Ravens allowed 25 points per game, and it looks even worse knowing a vast majority of their losses were by eight points or less.
The Ravens have spent their offseason upgrading the offense by bringing in Mike Wallace, Benjamin Watson, and rookie Kenneth Dixon (they also brought in Eric Weddle on defense, too). But they spent most of the Draft addressing pass rushing. Baltimore drafted four defensive linemen to help get to the quarterback next season, and how quickly they come along could determine how well this defense performs. Considering Baltimore was tied for 17th in the league with 37 sacks last season, an effective pass rush could allow them to win a few more of those close games.
Hue Jackson has never shied away from sharing how he feels about something or someone no matter who it is. Jackson's most recent target was Corey Coleman.
"He's explosive and he can catch the ball; he's got to get in shape," Jackson said of Coleman's conditioning via Pat McManamon of ESPN. "He's one of the guys that has to get in shape. But the talent, he's extremely talented and gifted, and I think he saw himself, 'Whoa, this is different.' And it is. We'll get him where he needs to be."
Jackson has a unique way of calling a guy out while also maintaining his confidence in a player. Bengals fans saw this last year during Jeremy Hill's struggles. By doing this with Coleman it also shows other rookies coming in that Jackson doesn't care when you were drafted. Everyone has an equal opportunity to be called out.
Cleveland hasn't been a patient city, especially i recent years. Jimmy Haslam has been quick to cut ties with front offices and coaches that he didn't feel were getting the job done, but it may be time to let this group play the long game. The Browns lost several major pieces during free agency this season, and while they drafted plenty of receivers, none of them strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. Cleveland loaded up for the future, and maybe everyone should start preparing for the developmental years that are coming. Cleveland will likely give its younger players more playing time to learn, and that doesn't translate well to wins. Not to mention the Browns play in a division where three teams are serious playoff contenders on an annual basis.
Building through the draft is a smart and viable option, but it takes a serious amount of time and commitment. Take Jacksonville for example. Gus Bradley was hired following the 2012 season and the owner vowed commitment to the process realizing what Bradley was inheriting. After three seasons of poor to mediocre football, the Jaguars are on the cusp of finally being a competitor. The Browns may have to follow that blueprint and even though they've made plenty of progress, there is still plenty left to be done.
Antonio Brown is arguably one of the best receivers in the NFL, but he isn't paid like it. Next season, Brown is set to make $8.25 million and then $8.71 million in 2017 according to Over The Cap. Meanwhile, other receivers in the conversation of being the best, like A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Dez Bryant, will all be making around $10 million per year.
Still, Steelers GM, Kevin Colbert, isn't worried about Brown looking for a new deal. "He does have two years left," Colbert told Pro Football Talk. "We expect that to be honored without any issue. Again, Antonio's a unique player. We understand that. He understands our policies. I don't ever see that changing, as long as we still have the mindset that it's been good for the organization. He's a special player, and we're just glad we have him for two more years anyway."
It is in the Steelers' best interest to make players believe in this sense of loyalty to the team, and to not cause any sort of issues or drama, but if anyone deserves to have a serious issue in what he is paid it's Brown.
Now that all the major events of the offseason are out of the way, have the Steelers improved from last season? The first major loss was Martavis Bryant to a year long suspension. He provided a very potent number two option for Ben Roethlisberger last season and his absence could be felt pretty hard. Pittsburgh is hoping that Markus Wheaton or Sammie Coates can fill the void. The Steelers also lost Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin in free agency. Boykin didn't start to contribute until late in the season for the Steelers, but he became an effective defender for them after that. Steelers fans also won't miss Blake after placing plenty of secondary struggles on him, but whether their replacements can come in and improve the secondary remains to be seen. Pittsburgh will hope they come along quickly considering they play the Bengals and Ravens passing attacks twice a season.
The Steelers did bring in Ladarius Green from San Diego, to replace fan-favorite Heath Miller which could be a huge improvement in the passing game, but could hurt run blocking slightly. Although you'd imagine the Steelers won't use Green in the same way they used Miller. Tight end seems to be the one position where the Steelers improved. Bryant's loss will still be missed sorely and all of the turnover in the secondary won't help.
I wouldn't say the Steelers have gotten noticeably worse and they are still easily one of the favorites in the AFC based on Roethlisberger, Brown, and Le'Veon Bell alone.