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State of the AFC North: Steelers cut Ladarius Green; Browns add Jason McCourty

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The Browns are actually getting some respect from the national media. Pittsburgh cut ties with their 2016 prized offseason acquisition. The Ravens secondary could be one of the best in the NFL, but it still has some questions on defense.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers-Training Camp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It has been an interesting week for the Cincinnati Bengals’ competitors in the AFC North. The Browns actually got some respect from a national media outlet. Meanwhile, the Steelers cut ties with tight end Ladarius Green after his strange tenure with the team. The Ravens’ defense has been insanely hyped, but it still has some questions to answer with the front seven.

Baltimore Ravens

Position battles for Ravens

The Ravens have had a busy offseason adding plenty of talent. That is leading to a few returning players having to fight for their roster spots or place on the depth chart.

One of the most forgotten names in the Ravens’ backfield is Javorius Allen, or more commonly known as Buck Allen. Allen was once viewed as a future starter for the team. Allen’s rookie season was spent mostly behind Justin Forsett, but he was given the job after Forsett’s injury. While he didn’t run away with the job, he performed pretty well, considering that was the season the Ravens lost half their players. Following that season, the Ravens drafted Kenneth Dixon, and Terrance West emerged with the starting job. Now with Danny Woodhead in the mix, and Dixon suspended, Allen will need to show he’s made some major improvements if he wants to have any sort of playing time.

An interesting name to watch is Chris Matthews. Matthews was the Seahawks wide receiver who broke out in their last Super Bowl. Matthews is a 6’5” match up nightmare. And he provides that big physical presence starting receivers, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, just don’t have. It is no secret that the depth chart behind the starters at receiver for the Ravens is a very open competition, and Matthews, who is coming off a season spent on Injured Reserve, can easily find himself climbing the depth chart with a productive training camp.

Questions remain in the front of the Ravens’ defense

Most of the talk for the Ravens’ defense this offseason has been spent talking about their new, revamped secondary. Rightfully so, as the team added Tony Jefferson, Brandon Carr and spent their first round pick on Marlon Humphrey. Still their defense has some questions in the front seven, and the answer to those questions could show what kind of year the Ravens’ defense will have.

Obviously Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and recently re-signed Brandon Williams anchor the front of that defense. The Ravens traded away Timmy Jernigan before the draft, and that leaves a very big spot next to Williams for the taking. The Ravens drafted Chris Wormley in the third round, and they also have Willie Henry from last year’s draft to compete for the spot. One of those guys will have to grow up quickly if the Ravens want to be as stout against the run again next season.

Zachary Orr retired in a pretty surprising fashion this offseason, leaving the job for Kamalei Correa who didn’t play much last season. Correa is forced into a very important position next to Mosely on that defense, and with tight ends and running backs becoming more prolific in the passing game, he will need to catch on quickly or offenses will target him early and often.

One of the most obvious questions the Ravens tried to answer in the draft was “who will become the pass rusher opposite Suggs?” After cutting Elvis Dumervil this offseason the Ravens drafted Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser to hopefully create some heat for quarterbacks, and mostly take advantage of all the attention going toward Suggs’ side.

The Ravens are banking on their defense carrying them this season, and how these players do in their new spots could determine how far the defense actually carries the team.

Cleveland Browns

Browns front office getting respect

It is weird to see the Browns actually get praise from national media. Cleveland is so often the punchline that you almost have to do a double take when they get some credit for their actions. CBS recently put together a power ranking for front offices in the NFL, and the Browns ranked 4th.

It is easy to see why the Browns front office should get some respect. In the past two drafts they’ve acquired an insane amount of draft picks, and this season they brought in some quality free agents including Kevin Zeitler.

Some of their key moves include getting a second round pick to take Brock Osweiler, adding the best player in the draft, Myles Garrett, drafting two other first round picks and possessing 12 picks for the 2018 draft, including an extra first rounder and two second round picks.

Now, we just need to see how it all turns out.

Cleveland adds McCourty

Jason McCourty was released by the Titans this offseason after eight years with the team. McCourty isn’t the same corner he once was. He is more of a Terrance Newman type corner now where he gives up the short and intermediate plays, but he limits the big ones. The rumors swirling around Malcom Butler and the Patriots seemed to have the door cracked for McCourty to join his brother Devin McCourty in New England, but the trade never happened. That opened the door up for McCourty to join the Browns.

A two-year deal for $6 million landed McCourty in Cleveland. It will be interesting to see how the depth chart shakes out because Joe Haden and Jamar Taylor seem to have the starting spots locked up, but the Browns have a giant need at safety. McCourty does bring some experience though since he played for Greg Williams in Tennessee for a season, but he also hasn’t ruled out moving to safety. He says he is most excited just to be a mentor to the young guys, and that is where he could be most valuable to the Browns, who have a ton of young talent that just needs to be pointed in the right direction.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Green gets cut after strange year with Pittsburgh

What a weird year it has been for Green and the Steelers. When Green signed a four-year $20 million deal, the Steelers were praised for taking a chance on the talented tight end. He was buried behind Antonio Gates in San Diego and struggled with concussions, but there was no denying if he could stay healthy he would be a great addition. The Steelers cut Green this week after he failed a physical.

He started off the 2016 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list following ankle surgery. However, a rumor started that he was also experiencing reoccurring headaches, which was a serious cause for concern with his history of concussions.

Ultimately, Green ended up hitting the field in Week 10, but he only managed to play in six games before sustaining another concussion and missing the rest of the season, including all of the postseason. He ultimately collected $6 million for six games played.

Green’s time in the NFL may be up after this exit from Pittsburgh. The Steelers will have to hope Jesse James is able to produce, but more importantly stay healthy, considering there isn’t much talent behind him.

Don’t expect Watt to have an instant impact

The newest Watt brother will be on the field for Pittsburgh soon, but we shouldn’t expect him to run out there and instantly make a name for himself. T.J. Watt will take some time to develop into an NFL pass rusher.

Watt’s starting experience at Wisconsin was limited and he also is pretty light for an NFL pass rusher. Much like his brother J.J. Watt, T.J. excelled as a bull rusher in college, but right now he doesn’t have the muscle to do that consistently against NFL tackles.

The situation for the Steelers works out in his favor though. While their pass rush isn’t quite up to snuff yet, Watt won’t be asked to come in and start right away with James Harrison and Bud Dupree bookending the outside linebacker positions. Watt can come in and get some experience sparingly while developing into what the Steelers hope can be the eventual replacement for Harrison.