The AFC North has been relatively quiet so far this offseason. Each team has made several key moves, but it is surprising that the Cleveland Browns look to be in better position to land free agents than the Cincinnati Bengals’ other rivals. Here is a quick update on some of the biggest stories with the other teams in the division.
Browns host free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney
Cleveland has a clear view of trying to improve their defense this offseason. They started out by landing the best safety on the market in John Johnson. They also added defensive back Troy Hill and pass rusher Takk McKinley to help add talent and depth at areas of need. Now they are hosting former first overall pick, Clowney, to put opposite of their own first overall pick, Myles Garrett.
Clowney bet on himself last offseason by taking a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. Despite not registering a sack in eight games, he was still fairly disruptive by registering six QB hits. While the Browns were trying to sell themselves to Clowney, this visit may have been just as much about seeing what kind of shape the free agent is in. He suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during the 2020 season and underwent core-muscle surgery last offseason.
It doesn’t appear a deal is about to be finalized anytime soon, but it is notable that a team the Bengals have to face twice a year could be the home of a pretty dangerous pass-rushing duo. More of a reason to make sure Joe Burrow gets more protection this offseason.
T.Y. Hilton latest free agent wide receiver to snub Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens have been fairly obvious with their intention to get Lamar Jackson a better wide receiver this offseason to be a leader at the position. Baltimore has been mentioned as an interested team for every major receiver. What is more interesting is that they have failed to reel anyone in even when offering more money. The latest report comes via T.Y. Hilton opting to return to the Indianapolis Colts.
From NFL Now: A look at how the #Colts ended up signing back WR TY Hilton, despite a huge offer from the #Ravens to get him to head to Baltimore. pic.twitter.com/lhvIkrCS8Z— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 25, 2021
Many fans often joke about Jackson’s throwing talents, and his down year after being the MVP in 2019 didn’t help things. It is hard to say receivers don’t want to be paired with Jackson, but it isn’t a great look when Hilton opts to try a year with Carson Wentz as his quarterback at this point in his career over taking more money with Baltimore.
It could be that receivers aren’t as interested in multi-year deals for less than what they view their worth as, but with guys like Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith Schuster (who was also offered more money) and now possibly Sammy Watkins who left his visit without a deal, it has to be wondered what the issue is.
Steve Nelson gets his release from Steelers
The Steelers have done quite a bit of subtraction on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. Nelson is the fifth starter to leave the team this offseason after he failed to find a trade partner. The move gave Pittsburgh about $8 million in cap space, but they lost a quality starter in a secondary that is quickly detreating.
The Steelers have also lost Tyson Alualu, Mike Hilton (now a Bengal), Bud Dupree and Vince Williams to leave by either release or free-agency signing. That is quite a bit of departure, and when you combine that with Ben Roethlisberger returning for another season, Pittsburgh could be in for quite the downslide. They started 2020 off with 11 straight victories, but they suffered several painful losses, including an upset via Cincinnati on Monday Night Football.
The Steelers were then blown out by the Browns in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, which may serve as more of a poetic changing of the guard than any of us may have realized in the moment.