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Bengals Bytes (5/29): Be like Gronk

The NFL has an interesting message for its rookies. Are the Bengals ready for the AFC North gauntlet? The Browns had a clear plan of improving their offensive line, and it may just work.

NFL: Super Bowl LI Champions-New England Patriots Parade Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Bengals ready for the AFC North?

The 2017 season has to be a turnaround for the Bengals. This isn’t your average go 8-8 and look at the bright side type of year. Marvin Lewis is on a short leash–seemingly–and fans are hyped about the young prospects that will be wearing stripes. But, it may not be the easy cakewalk that many faithful think it will be. Yes, you can take it to the bank. The Bengals will definitely be a competitive bunch. But, they aren’t the only team with designs on conquering the AFC North.

Unwanted Bengals are becoming Bill Belichick's treasure

Sometimes you have to wonder about the timing of things. What some people call a coincidence, others consider a natural occurrence. But, when you look at the state of affairs between the Bengals and Patriots, it seems like repeat mode. If the late great Yogi Berra was around, it would be deja vu all over again. When Rex Burkhead turned the Baltimore Ravens D into Swiss cheese in Week 17, the writing was on the wall. He had that superstar game everyone was waiting for.

Jordan Willis could end up starting during the season

In his last three seasons as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals (2013, 2015, 2016), defensive end Michael Johnson has just 12 sacks in 47 games, 46 of which he started. Only 3.5 of those sacks came last season, despite the fact Johnson made 16 starts. He forced zero fumbles, and PFF graded him as the worst pass-rusher among 53 qualified 4-3 defensive ends leaguewide.

Cincinnati Bengals: Analyzing the running back position

The combination of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard has been a steady one-two punch for the Cincinnati Bengals for years now, but additions around them make this an interesting group to watch in 2017. Subsequently, they’re the next stop on this offseason series that looks at each position group individually. The Bengals brought in talent through the draft and undrafted free agency. So what do we make of it?

AFC North Bytes

Ravens' Wallace thinks Perriman will be among NFL's best WRs in 2017

A fellow Baltimore Ravens wide receiver is expecting a major breakout from Breshad Perriman this fall. Confident that his young teammate can rebound from a slow start to his career, Mike Wallace even went as far as to say that the 2015 first-rounder will soon establish himself among the NFL's top pass-catchers. "He's going to surprise a lot of people," Wallace said, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. "He's going to be one of the top receivers in the league this year."

Cleveland Browns: Fielding dominant O-line a clear goal

Many of the Cleveland Browns’ offensive struggles could be traced to a weak offensive line last season. They’ve made it a clear that fixing that is a priority. If you weren’t already aware that the Cleveland Browns are working to build a dominant offensive line, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to the Browns this offseason. Cleveland inked guard Joel Bitonio to a new extension that can keep him in town through 2022. They also added standout guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter to the group in free agency.

William Gay holding onto job with Pittsburgh Steelers by skin of his teeth

Cornerback William Gay has been a regular part of the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary for nearly a decade. In a 10-year NFL career, Gay has spent nine seasons in Pittsburgh, with two stints wrapped around a year with the Arizona Cardinals. However, his time with the Steelers is in serious jeopardy, and he’s barely holding on.

Random Bytes

Peter King's Monday Morning QB: Memorial Day Notes

Here’s a holiday look on what’s happening around the league, including items on the Sherman-Seahawks situation, a fledgling flag football idea featuring Michael Vick, a Texan’s triumphant return to the field and more

Michael Vick Says He Plans to Sign 1-Day Contract, Retire with Atlanta Falcons

Free-agent quarterback Michael Vick said he's talking with the Atlanta Falcons about the idea of signing a one-day contract with the organization to officially retire as a member of the Falcons. Knox Bardeen of CBS Atlanta passed along the news Friday, which came from a discussion between Vick and the outlet's Jon Chuckery. The formerly dynamic QB confirmed he's ready to call it a career.

NFLPA Tells Rookies to Be Like Rob Gronkowski, Odell Beckham Jr., Dak Prescott

The NFL Players Association pointed to three of the NFL's biggest stars for incoming rookies to emulate as they enter the league. Speaking at the Rookie Premiere last weekend, Ahmad Nassar, the president of the NFLPA's for-profit subsidiary, NFL Players Inc., told incoming rookies that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott have set strong examples.

NFL Nostalgia: Ranking the Most Underrated Players in NFL History

It takes more than mere greatness to be considered one of the most underrated players in pro football history. It takes bad timing and bad luck. It takes years of playing the wrong position for the wrong team in the wrong league at the wrong time. To make our list, a player must contribute to a winning effort while putting up bad stats, misunderstood stats or no stats. He must either play for teams so good that they overshadow his accomplishments, or teams so bad that he had to do it all by himself.