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State of AFC North: What Maclin means for Ravens; Garrett will be ready for camp

What does the addition of Jeremy Maclin mean for the Ravens? Myles Garrett sprained his foot, but should be OK soon. Could the Steelers scale back Le’Veon Bell’s workload?

NFL: Kansa City Chiefs-OTA Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

OTAs have wrapped up and each AFC North team seems to be in the news for different reasons. The Ravens finally upgraded their receiving corps by adding Jeremy Maclin. The Browns’ top pick is dealing with a minor injury, but he is getting a major lesson in the spotlight that comes along with being the first pick. Could the Steelers cut the touches Le’Veon Bell receives after carrying quite a bit of the offensive load last season?

Baltimore Ravens

What the Maclin addition means for Baltimore

Everyone had been clamoring for the Ravens to upgrade their receiving position after the team ignored it all off season. The Ravens finally changed that last week by signing Maclin after he was cut by the Chiefs.

Maclin is coming off a disappointing season, in which he had 536 yards receiving, 44 catches and only two touchdowns. Still one could try and apply an asterisk as he played with one of the most conservative quarterbacks in the NFL, Alex Smith and missed four games due to injury. However, the year prior, he had his second best season as a pro, which was also with the Smith-led Chiefs.

Maclin could see his career revived with Joe Flacco, who has the arm to make Maclin a threat anywhere on the field. The question remains, what sets him apart from the receivers the Ravens currently have? It isn’t fair to label Maclin a burner like his new Baltimore counterparts in Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. He can be a threat with intermediate routes, but he isn’t really a possession receiver either.

Maclin is very talented, but it probably would’ve been better for the Ravens to add a possession receiver like Eric Decker who could help move the chains by making contested catches. The Ravens could rely on their loaded tight end position to fill that role, but I’m still not willing to follow the hype train that has taken off after the Maclin signing. For the record, Decker has signed with the Titans since getting cut by the Jets.

Suggs embracing being ‘Vader’ of the Ravens

All players treat the last leg in their NFL career very differently. Most players won’t perform the same way at the end of their career as when they first start a job. Some people slack off, others grow frustrated at the change around them and some choose to enjoy the end a little bit more than they did the beginning.

Terrell Suggs has chosen the later. He spent OTAs hijacking golf carts from his team’s owner and even dabbling in offense by caching some passes. He has become completely self aware of where he is in his career.

"It's a new era of Ravens. I'm the Vader of the group — the last of my kind," Suggs told the Baltimore Sun. "I like that, but you can't deny a C.J. Mosley or a Brandon Williams, Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson. It's very fortunate of me to still be a part … to be the last piece of that transition. It's a good feeling, but it's also exciting to see these young guys go out there and create the new era of Ravens with the statement they're trying to make, too. I'm just enjoying my time. When it's time for me to cross that bridge [into retirement], I'll cross it proudly. I just don't feel like it's the time yet."

Suggs is set to be part of a pretty good defense again after the Ravens invested so much into that side of the ball for the second offseason in a row.

When Suggs was drafted by the Ravens, the defense was already established as one of the best with players like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in their primes. Now, Suggs has a chance to help bring along some young pass rushers to carry the torch and bring in this new defensive era for the Ravens.

It is hard to imagine the last piece of that dominating Ravens’ defense is almost gone, but at least Suggs is going out while having some fun.

Cleveland Browns

Garrett suffers foot sprain during OTAs

Myles Garrett summoned up the sports media storm you’d expect when the first overall pick gets injured in an offseason workout. Garrett sprained his foot on a non-contact injury, but word out of Cleveland is he will be ready for training camp.

The bigger story here may be that Garrett got his first taste of the national sports media. He was a talented player throughout his college career, and he went through all the pre-draft scrutiny that comes with being the top prospect. Still, nothing will compare to the magnifying glass he will have on him this season.

Expectations are extremely high for Garrett. And after tanking last season, the player the Browns chose better be worth it. That is quite a bit of pressure to put on a rookie, but his defensive coordinator seems to think he will come out of the gates strong.

"He has done a great job," Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told ESPN. "It is still way early, but you guys are going to see a pretty good football player when he gets the chance to get out there and go. I have a big smile on my face, and I will just wait and let him show everybody before I talk about it."

Garrett seems to have dodged a bullet with this injury, but he shouldn’t expect a break from the news cycle.

Browns second-year receivers look improved

A player’s second season is a chance to prove their rookie season either wasn’t a fluke or how much they’ve grown. The Browns are hoping the many receivers they drafted last year will benefit from the year they’ve spent in the league and flourish in year two.

The Browns very famously drafted five receivers in 2016 and four remain on the roster. They did this one season after the former regime didn’t draft a single receiver, despite knowing Josh Gordon was going to be suspended. It felt like a message to the fans that this new front office was different, and also a message to Gordon that they were prepared to move on without him.

None of those receivers did that much during their rookie year. Corey Coleman, the Browns’ 2016 first round pick, played very well before getting injured. He finished fourth on the Browns’ receiving list with 413 yards on 33 catches. You have to go down to the receiver with the sixth most yards last season to find the next rookie, Ricardo Louis, who had 205 yards on 18 catches.

It isn’t exactly surprising considering just how bad the Browns’ offense was last season, but the receivers are getting rave reviews so far this offseason.

"We always talk about when you come into a new program, it's like learning a new language," senior offensive assistant coach Al Saunders told Cleveland.com. "Now most of them are totally fluent in the foreign language they learned, being the Cleveland Browns offense and they've adapted dramatically. They're playing so much faster."

He also went on to specifically compliment Louis. A year of learning has apparently paid off so far for the Browns, but it is still early. We’ll see what they look like once the pads come on.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Shazier speaks out about rookie contracts

I’m sure monster contracts for rookies seem like a distant memory. Gone are the days when guys game out of college and instantly became the highest paid players in the league. Busts like JaMarcus Russell essentially ruining a team for years no longer happen. Not to mention, the lengthy holdouts rookies would constantly go through to get their deal done are also gone.

The 2011 collective bargaining agreement eliminated a lot of that, but is the current solution viable? Ryan Shazier doesn’t think so.

“At the end of the day, if you’re playing at that level, you should be able to get that opportunity,” Shazier told ESPN on the subject of fellow 2015 first round picks, Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald, seeking new deals. “At the end of the day, that’s between you and the team. If the team wants to do that, it’s great. ... If you play at that level, you should be able to re-up whenever you want to.”

He has a point. Rookie deals are very team friendly as draft positioning determines how much a player is paid. Players like Beckham and Donald who are already elite players in the NFL may be in the minority, but they’re getting paid less than they would be if they weren’t on rookie deals, especially because of the fifth year option built in with first round picks.

In the past few years, elite level players who have completed the process of clearly outplaying their contracts have sought to get paid even above what they may be worth to make up for the bargain price of their rookie deals. As we all know, any play can be a player’s last, and it doesn’t seem right for players to need to survive the NFL gauntlet for five years before they can get paid what they’re worth.

Obviously there are flaws with both systems, but it will be 2021 before the NFLPA can next negotiate a new situation for its players.

Will Steelers decrease Bell’s touches next season?

Last year Bell was easily one of the most used players in the NFL. He was second on his team in receiving and led the team in rushing. He ran the ball 261 times and caught 75 passes in only 12 games.

That is absolutely insane for the modern NFL running back. It also ended up coming back to bite the Steelers as Bell got injured during the playoffs and left the AFC Championship game just minutes into the action.

Bell is currently refusing to sign his franchise tag in hopes of getting a long term deal with the team, but he’s likely to come around (or get that deal) soon enough. However, there is a very good chance the Steelers try cutting back on some of Bell’s touches this year.

With Martavis Bryant set to return, Bell won’t have to be as prominently featured in the passing attack. The Steelers also drafted James Conner, out of Pittsburgh, who could help take some goal line carries off of Bell’s workload.

Bell is an extremely talented player, and it makes sense to want to get him as involved as possible. But, it is probably more important to have him at the end of the season, when the games become so much more important, and cut down on his regular season touches to increase the chances he makes it to the postseason healthy.