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State of the AFC North: Recapping week one of free agency for Browns, Steelers, Ravens

A review of the Brock Osweiler trade. The Ravens upgraded their defense quite a bit in the early days of free agency. The Steelers re-sign Landry Jones, but they shouldn’t view him as their future quarterback. And, a recap of every move so far for the Bengals’ division rivals.

NFL: AFC Divisional-Houston Texans at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

We’re one week into the insanity of the craziness that is free agency. The Browns have been throwing around money, and they even made a controversial trade for a quarterback not named Jimmy Garoppolo. The Ravens somehow added one of the top free agents while also retaining one of their own. The Steelers watched a few of their guys walk away, and it doesn’t seem like they are looking to make any splashes this free agency.

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens sign Danny Woodhead

One of the first dominos to fall during the legal tampering period of free agency was the Ravens and Woodhead agreeing to a deal. At first, the news was a bit of a head scratcher since the team already has a receiving back in Kenneth Dixon, but then news arose that Dixon is suspended for the first four games of the season for breaking the NFL’s PED policy.

The Ravens worked out a reasonable deal considering Woodhead is coming off an ACL injury last season. When Woodhead is healthy, he is one of the best third down running backs in the league. He should be a nice addition in Baltimore.

Tony Jefferson addition creates incredible safety duo

The notion that the Ravens could sign Eric Weddle one offseason and then Jefferson the next is insane. But, Baltimore did it. Jefferson is coming off a career year with the Cardinals and was the top safety on the market; he signed a four-year $34 million deal with the Ravens. The Browns offered him more money than the Ravens, but, he opted to go to Baltimore for a better chance of winning. This move also allowed the Ravens to cut Lardarius Webb to create more cap space.

Jefferson adds a dimension that Baltimore’s secondary has been lacking for the past few season. He is a very good box safety, capable of coming up and making plays in the run game, and he is just a bigger bodied safety, which is becoming more and more of a necessity in today’s NFL.

Baltimore manages to keep Brandon Williams

Williams, the catalyst to the Ravens’ run defense, will be remaining in Baltimore. This was a huge signing for the Ravens as his loss would’ve been dramatic. Instead, he will be staying with the team that seems to be headed toward fielding one of the better defenses in the league with Jefferson filling out the secondary.

If you would’ve told me the Ravens could go out and give Jefferson a whole bunch of money and then still bring back Williams I would’ve never believed you. But, they managed to pull it off by working the cap and cutting some dead weight. He will be getting paid $52.5 million on a five-year deal.

Important cuts and losses for Baltimore

The Ravens lost Kyle Juszczyk to the 49ers early on in free agency. Juszczyk was the Ravens’ lead blocker, and he did a better job this season in the receiving game. The Ravens plan to get some blocking help from Woodhead, but the fullback position has been a big deal there in helping the run game. It will be interesting to see if there is a drop off due to Juszczyk’s absence.

Baltimore cut Elvis Dumervil to create cap space. Dumervil and Terrell Suggs were a dynamic duo for a few years, but injuries have hampered Dumervil in recent years, making this decision an easy one for the Ravens.

Rick Wagner, the Ravens right tackle, left for the Lions, leaving another hole in the Ravens’ offensive line after losing Kelechi Osemele last season.

Ravens free agency overview:

Signings: DB/LB Anthony Levine Sr., QB Ryan Mallett, DT Brandon Williams, RB Danny Woodhead, S Tony Jefferson

Departures: DE Lawrence Guy (Patriots) guard Vladimir Ducasse (Bills), Elvis Dumervil (released), Kyle Juszczyk (49ers), Rick Wagner (Lions), Lardarius Webb (released)

Unsigned free agents: WR Kamar Aiken, S Matt Elam, CB (former Bengal) Chris Lewis-Harris, CB Jerraud Powers.

Cleveland Browns

Terrelle Pryor Sr. signs with Washington

In a move that was very unexpected, the Browns didn’t manage to retain Terrelle Pryor. Pryor had said all season he would love to be back, but it didn’t work out and he signed a one-year deal with Washington.

There are rumors floating around that Pryor gave Cleveland an opportunity to match the offer, but they refused. Considering the deal was only $6 million that is doubtful. The same rumors insist the Browns offered a multi-year deal before Pryor entertained other offers. Pryor is betting on himself to prove the 2016 season wasn’t a flash in the pan.

Kenny Britt took the money; making the best of it

There isn’t anything wrong with a free agent deciding to take a huge deal with a team that is rebuilding, but Britt seems to be bringing the right attitude to the situation. Britt’s deal will net him more than $8 million a year and $32,500,000 over four years, overall.

He has already been high on Cleveland, insisting he wants to be part of the turnaround. He instantly replaces what Pryor was last season. He isn’t going to be a true number one receiver, but there aren’t many of those running around.

Explaining the Brock Osweiler trade

In addition to being a NFL fan, I also enjoy the NBA, and anyone else who follows the NBA understands the Cleveland Browns’ Brock Osweiler trade perfectly. Let me enlighten those who don’t understand and those who think the Browns made a dumb move.

This is a salary dump. In the NBA, where all contracts are guaranteed, teams will move an underachieving player who makes an insane amount of money in order to free up cap space for the next offseason. However, the other team expects something for taking on this player’s burden of a contract, so teams will often bundle an asset with the burden player.

To sum it up the Browns got a second round pick in 2018 to save the Texans from having to pay Osweiler an insane amount of money. The notion that Cleveland could turn him around for another pick is fairly silly. I mean everyone just watched them get a second round pick just to take him.

It may not have been the quarterback many fans wanted the Browns to trade for, but it was still a great move by Cleveland. It’s very possible Osweiler never plays a down in Cleveland and is traded or simply cut.

Kevin Zeitler did what was right for Kevin Zeitler

It is hard watching one of the Bengals’ best players walk away because of money, but it was the right thing for Zeitler. He gets a monstrous contract to continue playing football, one the Bengals would never offer. In fact the Bengals never offered him a contract at all.

This is a big deal for the Browns as they are creating a dominant line of protection for whoever lines up under center next season, and that’s a safe way to build a team. It will be a complete 180 after last season where the Browns couldn’t even slow down the pass rush at times.

Let’s sum up the Browns’ free agency so far:

Signings: WR Kenny Britt, OL J.C. Tretter, OG Kevin Zeitler, QB Brock Osweiler (via trade).

Departures: WR Terrelle Pryor (Washington), QB Robert Griffin III (released), S Jordan Poyer (Buffalo), Andrew Hawkins (released).

Pittsburgh Steelers

Lawrence Timmons takes his talents to South Beach

The Steelers lost a long time staple at the linebacker position. Timmons signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins, which leaves the Steelers with a huge hole at the second inside linebacker position. Ryan Shazier is obviously good where he is, but now a guy like Vince Williams, or a rookie, will be thrust into that starting role. That’s not to mention, if Shazier goes down, their depth will really be tested.

Of course, the Steelers seem to have an insanely good luck with linebackers filling in.

And, Pittsburgh is working hard to get Dont’a Hightower to sign with them.

Steelers re-sign Landry Jones

It isn’t pretty, but it had to be done. The Steelers re-signed their backup quarterback and Landry Jones will remain in Pittsburgh, at least for now. Ben Roethlisberger has gotten dinged up more and more in recent years, and he even contemplated retiring this offseason... so he says. That increased the urgency to at least make sure the Steelers have a guy familiar with the system.

Jones shouldn’t be viewed as the future though. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers draft a quarterback late in the third round or early on the final day of the draft.

Markus Wheaton signs with the Bears; what it means for Martavis Bryant

Wheaton leaves the coziness of playing with Roethlisberger to have Mike Glennon throwing him the ball in Chicago, but this has a pretty big impact on the Steelers. Bryant is expected to return next season after completing a year long ban for violating the substance abuse policy. He first needs to be reinstated. His absence has been felt, but he is still an insane risk given his history in the league. Pittsburgh seems to be putting all their eggs in the Bryant basket, and only time will tell if he will reward them.

Other Steelers free agency news/recap:

Cornerback Davon House also visited the Steelers (and reportedly made him an offer), but while he was there, agreed to a deal with the Packers and bolted from Pittsburgh. The Steelers have lost out on a bunch of free agent cornerbacks including Logan Ryan and Dre Kirkpatrick. The Steelers also hosted wide receiver Justin Hunter and linebacker Jay Elliott for visits.

Signings: LB James Harrison, LS Greg Warren, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, K Chris Boswell, QB Landry Jones, TE David Johnson, FB Roosevelt Nix, S Jordan Dangerfield, WR Cobi Hamilton, RB Le’Veon Bell (franchise tag), WR Antonio Brown (extension)

Departures: WR Markus Wheaton (Bears), LB Lawrence Timmons (Dolphins), OLB Jarvis Jones (Cardinals)