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Around the AFC North: Steelers make big o-line change while Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield look for extensions

The Steelers grabbed a free agent lineman that Bengals fans really wanted, and the other two young quarterbacks are looking to get extensions done.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers-Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC North always has a ton going on. We saw the Steelers make a major move on their offensive line as a longtime veteran exits. Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson is setting up to negotiate his monster extension without an agent, and Baker Mayfield’s agent expects an extension to get done this summer as well.

Jackson taking negotiations into his own hands

Quarterbacks are the most important position in football. Because of that, they are often the highest-paid player in the NFL. A vast majority of players prefer to leave those contract talks up to their agents while they focus on the football side of things, but Jackson is electing to do things himself for contract talks with the Ravens.

We can start with the brief benefits of doing this. The biggest of which is not worrying about splitting the pie with anyone. Agents will usually take a percentage of the deal, which gives them incentive to get you the best deal imaginable. By doing it yourself you can avoid that.

Now on to the negatives. Some may scoff at the idea of an agent, but there is so much that goes into the structuring of an NFL contract. Do you know signing bonuses, roster bonuses, cap hits, how much the cap is projected to increase, or how voidable years work? Probably not.

You’d also have to put in a lot of work reading through what other quarterbacks have gotten recently to find a number that is at least attainable. Not to mention players tend to have a sort of loyalty that can be played off of when these talks happen.

Remember when Tom Brady took less money with the Patriots and proceeded to lose his favorite targets anyway?

Not to mention these deals can end up being a long drawn-out process that takes multiple months. Jackson is practicing, working out and now he wants to add this mental stress on top of it all. At some point it isn’t crazy to think that he just accepts a big deal so he can go back to focusing on football while leaving literally millions of dollars on the table.

To fans, missing out on millions may seem like a nonissue. However, the sad reality is that these players only have a finite amount of opportunities to negotiate contracts. If Jackson locks himself into a bad deal, it could lead to bad blood down the road.

Mayfield may be around for a long time

Mayfield’s agent is very confident that his client will be landing an extension this summer as well. It makes a lot of sense given the Browns’ history. The former-Heisman winning quarterback is fresh off the deepest playoff run for the Browns in a VERY long time.

We could argue about how much Mayfield has actually improved or where he sits among NFL quarterbacks. However, he has established himself in that building as the man who turned that franchise around. It would be pretty silly to see them move on from him at this point.

What will be more interesting to watch is how a Mayfield extension impacts a Nick Chubb extension and possible deals regarding that offensive line that was a huge strength this past season. Mayfield wasn’t really asked to go win games via the passing game since running the ball was so effective, but his deal could mark the end of Cleveland having room to retain that portion of the offensive at that effective of a rate. Something to watch down the line.

Changing of the guard

The Steelers shocked the NFL world when they released longtime veteran guard David DeCastro. They quickly replaced him with Trai Turner the very same day. Bengals fans experienced a whirlwind of emotions as the calls to sign DeCastro grew and then the disappointment of losing out on Turner followed.

It appears a huge reason behind DeCastro’s release beyond cap issues also resides in him struggling with an ankle injury as well as mulling retirement. It makes sense to move on to Turner in that situation. It also leaves doubt that the Bengals would be a team that a veteran that close to calling it a career would sign on for another season for.

Turner is a solid veteran option, but Pittsburgh is in for a rude awakening with the state of that offensive line. For as much as people are making jokes at the Bengals’ expense regarding the protection of Joe Burrow, Pittsburgh may as well be committing negligence towards the elderly with what they are putting in front of Ben Roethlisberger. The team has now lost four starters via free agency of retirement including two of the best interior linemen in DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey. The Steelers will have plenty to overcome in 2021, and Turner’s arrival feels more like a Band-Aid on cracking dam.