The AFC North is preparing for the start of free agency, but the biggest news has to be the Ravens losing offensive lineman Marshal Yanda to retirement. The Browns, meanwhile, have also gutted their linebacker unit.
Bye bye Yanda
Yanda is leaving behind some gigantic shoes in Baltimore. Since he was drafted by the Ravens in 2007 in the third round, he has been one of the most valuable players along their offensive line.
He has been a common denominator in most of the success the Ravens have had rushing the ball over his time with the team, and he has been a formidable opponent for guys like Geno Atkins who usually make a living off being able to create pressure up the middle. However, at 35 it simply makes sense for Yanda to hang it up and enjoy life after football.
This now makes right guard a fairly big need for the defending AFC North champions. Bradley Bozeman started at left guard last season with some mixed results, and aside from Ben Powers, who was a fourth round pick last season, there is no one else on the roster who wasn’t either a late round pick or a college free agent.
There seems to be a very high likelihood that the Ravens will either look towards free agency or the draft to address their interior offensive line for the upcoming season.
Baltimore bolsters defensive line with Calais Campbell
The Ravens got off to the races for the new season early by trading for defensive lineman Calais Campbell from the Jaguars for a fifth-round pick. It has also been reported that a new contract will follow to help lower what would be a $15 million cap hit this season.
The #Ravens and new DL Calais Campbell are finalizing a 2-year new deal for $27M, sources say. It gives him $20 guaranteed after the trade from the #Jaguars. It’s not completely done yet, but sounds like it will be.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 15, 2020
The Ravens are fairly strapped on cap space, and they are attempting to make a few short-term moves to keep themselves as one of the top AFC teams going into 2020. They also franchise tagged Matt Judon, but it is more likely he gets traded or signs a long-term extension.
Campbell has been to five Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Pro team once during his career. He is entering his 13th season in the NFL, and he will be 34-years-old at the beginning of September. He only had 6.5 sacks last season, but he had double digit sacks the two seasons before that.
This is a solid move, but unless the Ravens are able to retain Judon or bring in another pass rusher could very well decide how much this defense regresses next season.
Cutting ties with all linebackers
The Browns made a pretty noteworthy statement when they opted to part ways with linebacker Christian Kirksey after trying to restructure his contract. This is being coupled with the team also looking like they won’t be willing to bring back free agent linebacker Joe Schobert for his likely price tag.
That leaves the Browns in a similar situation to the Bengals where they have a promising second year linebacker, Mack Wilson, and then some big holes at linebacker on the roster. Both of these former Browns could be possible free agent targets for the Bengals. Kirksey has been battling injuries for the past two seasons in Cleveland, and a one-year prove it type deal could be in the works. Although, Cincinnati would be wise not to plan on him being more than a third linebacker. Schobert would be more of a starting caliber move. He may be a little more costly, but Cincinnati needs to add a dependable player at the position.
More likely we will see the Ohio teams fighting over the same players in free agency and the draft as both teams need to add multiple players at the position.
Steelers franchise tag Bud Dupree
Pittsburgh had to be happy with Dupree finally having a career season with 11.5 sacks. They secured bringing him back by franchise tagging him for $15.892 million. This move will force the Steelers to make some corresponding moves as the team is very cap strapped. There is always a chance that the team can come to a long-term deal or even trade Dupree, but it at least seems like Dupree will be in Pittsburgh for 2020.
Dupree and T.J. Watt was quite the combination last season, and it doesn’t come as a shock the Steelers wanted to retain their young star hitting his prime. The team originally selected Dupree in the first round of the 2015 draft, but he has been more of a rotational player up until the past couple of seasons. It will be interesting to see what corresponding moves need to be made to keep Dupree, but the Steelers have a pretty scary pass rushing duo for 2020.