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State of AFC North: Building up Pryor; Bell plays ‘what if’; Marshall to Ravens?

Le’Veon Bell is as talented as he is frustrating with his remarks. Why are Cleveland fans building up Pryor so much? Should the Ravens continue their trend of bringing in a veteran presence at receiver?

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Another week of the offseason has passed, so we take a chance to check in with what the rest of the AFC North is up to as we head into the start of NFL free agency. The Ravens may try and bring in Brandon Marshall to add some much-needed help to their receiving corp. Cleveland fans have let their image of Terrelle Pryor Sr. get far too big. Le’Veon Bell talks about what could’ve been.

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens could follow pattern of veteran receiver signing

Baltimore loves giving free agent receivers a second chance to produce. Could they repeat this with Brandon Marshall becoming available?

Marshall has 11 years of experience, and he has had several stops in the NFL since starting his career in Denver. Last season wasn’t great, but a lot of that could be contributed to poor quarterback play. Marshall has six season with 100 catches or more. Three of those season have come in the last five years.

Marshall’s production is sporadic, but it is hard to blame him when you look at his quarterbacks. Guys like Jay Cutler and Ryan Fitzpatrick are some of the better quarterbacks he’s had. Maybe a guy like Joe Flacco could rejuvenate his career yet again.

The Ravens started this trend way back when they signed Derrick Mason in 2005. Mason had played eight years for the Titans, and he went on to play six more productive years for the Ravens.

The Ravens repeated this more recently when they brought in Steve Smith Sr. after the Panthers pushed him aside. Smith was a 13 year veteran when he signed with the Ravens. His first year was fantastic, but an achilles injury cut his second season short. He came back last year, and all things considered, he wasn’t bad.

Baltimore working to keep key free agents

Baltimore has a few of the top free agents hitting the market in defensive tackle Brandon Williams and offensive tackle Rick Wagner. Apparently the Ravens have made a “competitive offer” to Wagner in hopes they can keep their offensive line intact. This comes along with the news that Baltimore met again with Brandon Williams agents.

The Ravens are taking the right approach to free agency in attempting to retain their own guys, but once players hit the open market there is no telling where they may end up.

This year’s free agent class of offensive linemen could be in for quite the payday considering the lack of blue chip draft prospects. This could lead Wagner to see what his true value is. This doesn’t mean a return isn’t in the cards, but it would be a disservice to himself not to see what he could get. He could parlay another offer into more from Baltimore.

The Ravens may be more inclined to try and reach an agreement with Wagner after watching Kelechi Osemele sign with the Raiders last season. He was a huge part of the Raiders’ offensive success, and the offensive line becoming a dominant unit. It’d be hard watching a second productive lineman walk away in free agency.

Cleveland Browns

Garrett makes it hard for Cleveland to pass on him

Seriously, it is frustrating writing almost every week that the Browns should, for no reason, pass on Myles Garrett. This week at the Combine he showed off why he should be the first pick by simply dominating.

It isn’t common that an almost unanimous first overall pick participates at the combine. Some prospects pass on certain drills in fear of it hurting the player’s status rather than help. The risk could far outweigh the reward. However, Garrett proved his status at the top spot is warranted.

He started his day running a 4.64 40-yard dash. What makes it impressive is he did it while weighing in at 272 pounds. That is an insane speed to weight ratio that is seldom seen. He followed that up with a 41” vertical jump. That is a rare number for a defensive lineman. That number puts him in the 97th percentile among the position since 1999. In case you weren’t sure of his athleticism yet, he had a 10’8” broad jump.

Garrett’s athleticism is clear, but he isn’t just a finesse pass rusher. He put up 33 reps of 225, and that is what makes him the safest pick in this draft. He has all the tools to develop into one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. As the saying goes, the two most important positions on the field are quarterback and the guy who gets to the quarterback. The Browns could have that for years to come and the rest of the AFC North should fear Garrett.

Cleveland fans are overreacting about Pryor

It wasn’t that long ago that we thought Pryor re-signing with the Browns was a sure thing, but nothing has been finalized. Browns fans are starting to panic. Why? They build up these average players in folklore fashion.

Pryor had a productive year, but it was his only NFL season with actual production and the circumstances were ripe for it to happen. Pryor took advantage of a situation where the Browns had no true number one receiver. He simply was the most trusted target on a bad squad. Someone has to get the targets. To Cleveland fans, he was one of the few shimmers of hope from a terrible season, so there is a natural tendency to want to hang on to that; but Pryor is easily replaceable.

Let’s look at free agency first. Not a lot of the top guys are going to want to sign with Cleveland. Marshall isn’t wasting what could be his final years in a rebuild. However, guys like Kenny Stills and Kamar Aiken may be willing to accept the loads of cash the Browns are willing to dish out.

The draft is where real upgrades can begin. There is a good chance a guy like Corey Davis or Mike Williams falls to 12 if the Brown so choose to use that pick on a receiver. Even if they wait, there is some real depth at the position. JuJu Smith-Schuster out of USC gives the Browns a potential upgrade at a fraction of the cost.

The Browns shouldn’t develop strong ties to many of these players. Playing very well on a very bad team doesn’t mean you’re a very good player.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell says his health played a key role in Steelers’ loss to Patriots

There are really talented players who just don’t know when to just let certain comments or questions go. Bell recently proclaimed that if he was healthy the Steelers would’ve beaten the Patriots in the playoffs. Bell was hit with the franchise tag last week.

That’s like saying if the Patriots had Rob Gronkowski the Steelers wouldn’t have even been in the game. All teams have to deal with injuries, and the Patriots dealt with their injuries so much better. The best example is that Chris Hogan had 180 yards and two touchdowns in that game. Bell wasn’t going to stop that from happening.

It’s easy to go back with the power of hindsight and say things would play out differently, but the Patriots won and the Steelers and Bell need to move on.

Pittsburgh can’t keep putting off planning for life after Roethlisberger

At the beginning of the offseason Ben Roethlisberger shocked everyone with his consideration of retirement, even if it obviously wasn’t going to happen. But finding the next Steelers starting quarterback isn’t just a luxury consideration anymore. It is starting to become a priority.

Roethlisberger turned 35 last week, and a career filled with injuries and rushing back from those injuries has shortened his career greatly. At some point, father time and all those hits catch up with you. Considering the emphasis the Steelers are putting into keeping Antonio Brown and Bell, whoever comes in after Roethlisberger will have all the weapons around him. The question becomes whether the Steelers commit a mid-round selection to one of the quarterbacks in this draft? And the answer should be yes.

This draft is littered with guys with the tools to succeed, but who need time to develop. Now is the perfect time for the Steelers to get a guy who needs a few years on the bench to wait in the wings while Roethlisberger finishes up his career. Although, if the Steelers wait until he retires, it’d be fun to watch the Steelers potentially struggle with a rookie.