As we inch closer to the start of training camp, let’s check out what the rest of the AFC North is talking about. The Ravens are extremely high on their defense going into next season, and one player thinks the group can top one of the best defenses of all time. The Browns finally locked up all 10 of their draft picks. The Steelers and Bell may never reach a long term agreement if the recent leaks about their negotiations are true.
Michael Campanaro placed on PUP list
Campanaro has promise to become a productive slot receiver for the Ravens. He would be especially useful for a team that just lost their quarterback’s favorite target in Dennis Pitta. However, Campanaro has been hurt more than he has been healthy, and he will start off training camp on the PUP list. Currently, Campanaro is dealing with a sprained toe.
"It's not a serious injury, but it's a nuisance for sure," coach John Harbaugh told NFL.com. "He was practicing very well."
Campanaro has dealt with calf, quadriceps, hamstring and back injuries during his career. He has accumulated 17 touches for 226 yards in 11 games during his career after being selected seventh round of the 2014 draft. It would be nice for the Ravens to get Campanaro on the field, but if he doesn’t get there, they wouldn’t be hurting too badly. With the addition of Jeremy Maclin on top of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman the Ravens have surrounded Joe Flacco with some nice options at the receiver position.
Brandon Williams sets lofty goal for Ravens’ defense
The Ravens have focused on improving their defense the last two offseasons, and now one of their star players is making some bold claims.
"The bar set by our defense is already very high, and our goal is to notch it up even more," Williams told Gridiron Magazine. "The defense that helped us win that 2000 Super Bowl is the standard, and every year we're trying to reach and surpass that standard. We're never satisfied and we always want to get better."
The Ravens have added players like Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr in the past two seasons, and they already have players like Williams and C.J. Mosley who were foundations to a very good defense.
This is a good goal to have, but the thing is that defense was a once-in-a-lifetime unit. It also helped that defenses were allowed to do way more to slow down offenses. The Ravens were dominant in an era in which defensive backs didn’t have to worry about things like illegal contact. Now the NFL is more wide open, and it is way easier for teams to air it out. The Ravens, or any team for that matter, may never reach that 2000 Ravens’ status again.
Kenneth Dixon tears meniscus; done for year
#Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon suffered a tear in his meniscus, source said. He'll have surgery & hope is it's just a trim. Will know more post.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 25, 2017
Source: #Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon will be out for the season. He had his medial meniscus repaired today - not trimmed. Out 4-5 months. Brutal— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 25, 2017
Already suspended for the first four games of 2017, Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon tore his meniscus and will undergo surgery. Luck has not been on the young running back’s side since he entered the NFL.
Update: Dixon will be out the whole season as it seems his meniscus was injured as badly as Andrew Billings’ last year.
Browns’ fans still struggle with Brock Osweiler dilemma
As someone who lives in Browns and Steelers country, I hear a lot of talk about the Browns’ quarterback situation. One of the most frustrating arguments to hear is people insisting Brock Osweiler is going to be the starter because of his huge contract. They say a guy making $16 million doesn’t sit on the bench.
It is frustrating that people still need it explained to them that the Osweiler deal was basically buying a second round pick. I get deals like this don’t happen too often in the NFL, but that is what happened.
It is even more frustrating when people suggest trading Osweiler. You really think someone is going to give up a draft pick for a player the Texans literally had a to package with a second round pick for the Browns to take? What fairy tale world are those Browns fans living in?
Cody Kessler will probably end up being the starter since he showed some promise last season, and he has experience in the system. Still, DeShone Kizer will probably end up playing at some point because he has been wowing coaches during the offseason.
Jabrill Peppers and Cleveland agree to terms
The Browns have finally signed all 10 of their draft picks. Jabrill Peppers and Cleveland have come to terms on a contract after stretching out their negotiations after disagreeing over offset language. Details are scarce at this point, but it is obviously good for both parties to get this deal done before training camp. It’s of course interesting that the final draft pick signed in 2016, Joey Bosa, has the same agent as Peppers. It seems that agent may be becoming an issue for the NFL.
Peppers was billed as a do-it-all player coming out of college. He has been projected as a safety, but Hue Jackson has already hinted at possibly giving him some time on offense.
This finishes up a pretty nice offseason for the Browns. They’ve now signed all three of their first round picks including the first overall pick, Myles Garrett. Garrett and Peppers need to become foundation type players for a team trying to right the ship. Peppers, though, has more to prove because he was such a wild card coming out of college. Combine that with his alleged diluted drug test, and I’m sure he’s happy to get this deal done.
Martavis Bryant saying all the right things
Bryant is going around and saying everything a player in his situation should, and hopefully he is being truthful. His situation is that of a player who was suspended for a year and is returning to the NFL, promising he has improved and moved on from the issues that plagued him and forced his exit from the league in 2016. Still we have plenty of examples to know that actions mean more than words in this situation.
From players like Josh Gordon and Johnny Manziel, we’ve seen sometimes players know what people around them like to hear, and as fans, it’s hard to know whether to trust them or not. The only way we know they’re telling the truth is if the player stays out of trouble long-term. Otherwise, it is possible to get blind sided by a report that the player has repeated their past behavior.
Bryant is certainly saying all the right things and has pointed to reasons why this time will be different. For example, he says he’s listening to his support system this time around, instead of shutting them out. He also still plans to talk things out with Ben Roethlisberger.
Leaked contract offer to Le’Veon Bell leaves plenty of questions
After the Steelers and Bell failed to reach a long term agreement, an offer from the Steelers was leaked. The offer would have paid Bell more than $12 million annually, including $30 million during the first two seasons and $42 million in the final three seasons.
At first glance, this deal seems head and shoulders above a one-year $12 million tag Bell will be playing on in 2017, but guaranteed money wasn’t specified. The franchise tag would guarantee $12 million for Bell this season, and it is possible this offer wouldn’t reach that number. It is also possible the Steelers could’ve left an easy out that wouldn’t cost them anything, while leaving Bell high and dry in the future.
There’s also a report of Bell wanting to get paid like a top running back and No. 2 receiver, which may have had something to do with Bell refusing the Steelers’ deal. Bell does have a point there. On top of being one of the most productive running backs last season, he also finished the season second on the Steelers in most major receiving categories to Antonio Brown, despite missing the first three games of the season. It is hard to pay a player like that, and the whole situation reminds me of when Jimmy Graham and the Saints got into a dispute about being tagged as a tight end, despite playing more like a receiver. That one didn’t end up well. If Bell wants to re-set the market, it may have to be with a team not named the Steelers. These negotiations will continue in 2018 and it will benefit Bell to have a fully healthy and suspension-free 2017 season.
It seems as of today, the Steelers and Bell are fairly far apart from agreeing on what a fair long-term deal will look like.