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State of AFC North: Ravens wanted Matt Ryan desperately; Browns QB interests

With the 2016 NFL season in the books, let’s check in with the rest of the AFC North.

Baltimore Ravens v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Now that the New England Patriots have won the Super Bowl, the 2017 season is in full focus as the offseason is here for all 32 NFL teams. The Steelers are preparing to part ways with most of their 2013 Draft class. We knock another name off the possible Browns quarterback target list. And, we look back to when the Ravens almost traded their entire 2008 Draft class to select quarterback Matt Ryan.

Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore almost traded their entire 2008 Draft class for Matt Ryan

There are plenty of what if scenarios in the NFL. An interesting one that has surfaced due to the Super Bowl was Matt Ryan being a Raven. Back in 2008 the Rams held the second overall pick, and the Ravens wanted to move up from the No. 8 pick to draft Ryan. The Rams had a hefty price, all of the Ravens’ 2008 draft picks.

This wouldn’t have been the first time a team pulled off this maneuver. The Saints traded their 1999 Draft for Ricky Williams. That move didn’t work out for the Saints. Apparently what halted trade talks was the Rams getting too greedy. They asked for the Ravens 2009 second round pick as well. The trade quickly became too rich for the Ravens, or any sane team.

The Rams ended up drafting Chris Long, who is no longer on the team, while the Ravens ended up trading back and selecting Joe Flacco. Baltimore also ended up with Ray Rice, who despite his departure from the NFL due to his domestic violence incident, was a very important part of their offense.

The trade could have created an interesting situation for Atlanta, who ended up with Ryan in that Draft. Would they have taken Flacco had Ryan been unavailable? Would Atlanta have a Super Bowl with Flacco by now? Would the Ravens have been better with Ryan? That’s the fun part of what ifs in the NFL, we will never know.

Overview of the Ravens offseason

The 2017 offseason for Baltimore is an important one. The Ravens are dealing with Steve Smith Sr. and Zachary Orr retiring and leaving huge holes at their respective positions. The team also has several free agents who they’ll need to address if they hope to be relevant again in 2017.

One free agent of note who will need a new contract in 2017 is Brandon Williams, who may be the most important piece to their defense in the long term. Williams proved to be one of the better defensive tackles against the run last season. The Ravens can’t afford to lose anymore young defensive talent with Orr’s retirement.

They also have to make a decision on free agents in their backfield. Terrance West is a restricted free agent, but the Ravens will need to decide whether they want to continue the tandem with Kenneth Dixon and West. Kyle Juszczyk, the Pro Bowl fullback, is also a free agent this offseason. He has been a lead back and an unsung hero for the Ravens for years now. It could be a huge loss if he walks away.

Kamar Aiken’s free agency seems to be underrated. Most people are writing him off as unimportant, but the Ravens should seriously try and bring him back. In 2015 Aiken was one of the only constants on offense for the Ravens. Aiken was quickly buried on the depth chart with the signing of Mike Williams and return of Breshad Perriman and Smith from injury. Aiken becomes more important with Smith’s retirement, but maybe the Ravens go out and try and draft a number one receiver.

Cleveland Browns

Is Jimmy Garoppolo worth a first round pick?

I mean... Are we at this point, Cleveland? I get it. You just sat through a 1-15 season, and you want a reason for optimism. You can’t take dumb shortcuts though. Jimmy Garoppolo could be a good quarterback, but he isn’t worth a first round pick to trade for.

Garoppolo lit up the Dolphins this season during Tom Brady’s suspension. That does not warrant a first round pick, especially one as high as #12 overall. Player values in exchange for pick value is weird sometimes. The Browns got Jaimie Collins for a third round compensatory. So to suggest a quarterback who has five career touchdowns is worth a first round Draft pick could be a stretch. Are the Browns really willing to risk trading for Garoppolo? They shouldn’t be.

Kyle Shanahan didn’t want Johnny Manziel

It is easy to look back in hindsight, but Kyle Shanahan mentioned before the Super Bowl that he wanted the Browns to draft Derek Carr or Garoppolo instead of Johnny Manziel.

The Browns’ regime prior to Hue Jackson and Money Ball will live in infamy for their horrendous draft selections. In the 2014 Draft the Browns spent the second of two first round picks on Manziel at the 22nd spot. Meanwhile Carr and Garoppolo went on to be second round picks. Garoppolo is still a question mark, but Carr has become one of the rising stars in the NFL.

Shanahan gave the Manziel experiment one season before jumping ship and ending up in Atlanta. He parlayed his performance for the Falcons into a head coaching job for the 49ers. Manziel, meanwhile, is trying to make a comeback from his short-lived NFL career.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers likely to cut ties with most of 2013 Draft class

The Steelers hit a homerun with Le’Veon Bell, but the rest of the 2013 Draft class is in danger of getting booted from the roster in 2017.

The only player on the roster from 2013 who is under contract for 2017 is sixth round pick Vince Williams. Bell will likely be tagged or re-signed long-term, but Jarvis Jones is unlikely to be back with the team after underwhelming in his first four years. Jones has accumulated six sacks during his four year career. He was easily eclipsed by James Harrison and just about every other pass rusher the Steelers acquired. It won’t be shocking when Jones ends up getting a shot on a different roster in 2017.

Pittsburgh and Seattle likely to get away with not disclosing injuries

Let me ask you: If teams don’t get in trouble for not disclosing injuries, what is the point of even having an injury report? The NFL changed the injury report this season by getting rid of the probable tag because teams were abusing it. Now, teams have revealed they didn’t disclose injuries they are aware of, but the NFL reportedly won’t take much action if at all.

The NFL cares about pumping noise into the stadium, teams agreeing to deals during the tampering period, and teams possibly deflating balls with no proof.

But, if teams fail to disclose injuries when the NFL rules clearly state they must put injured players on the injury report, why would the NFL fail to punish the rule breakers?

This is something that gives an advantage to the team with the injured player. Especially in the Seahawks’ case because teams may test a defensive back who is hurt. In the Steelers’ case it changes how defenses game plans for the team if Bell is injured and playing through it (which he tried and failed to do in the Divisional Round game against the Patriots). Maybe the Patriots would try to take away the pass and make Bell beat them if they knew he were injured. This isn’t something the NFL should brush off when considering all the things they don’t allow to slip through the cracks.