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Around the AFC North: T.J. Watt gets paid and Ravens’ injury woes continue

The Ravens can’t catch a break, and the Steelers made sure to take care of securing TJ Watt.

Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Week 1 is right there, and it really can’t come soon enough for the Baltimore Ravens, who can’t stop losing key pieces to their team. Pittsburgh Steelers star TJ Watt is now the highest defensive player in the NFL. And the Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield still don’t have an extension.

Grounded Ravens

It is hard to keep up with all the Ravens injuries lately. It started when running back J.K. Dobbins went down with a season ending injury in the final preseason game. For a team that is so focused on running the ball, it was now down to Gus Edwards, Justice Hill and Ty’Son Williams, until Hill went down with a knee injury.

Thursday also saw the loss of Gus Edwards and star cornerback Marcus Peters.

When it rains, it pours. Hopefully, each player is able to recover and come back for next season, but that now leaves the Ravens with Williams —an undrafted free agent— and Le’Veon Bell, who was just signed to the team’s practice squad yesterday. They also are reportedly signing DeVonta Freeman to their practice squad.

TJ Watt breaks through Steelers’ front-office defense

Earlier this week, it was reported that Watt and the Steelers were having issues on closing in on a deal. That set off alarms and Pittsburgh players instantly started calling for Watt to get paid. A huge hurdle appeared to be the amount of guaranteed money in the contract.

Cincinnati Bengals fans can relate to that, as Cincinnati’s front office is having similar issues getting star safety Jessie Bates III locked up.

Thursday was a huge win for Watt as well as the players on teams like the Steelers and Bengals, though, as he became the highest paid defensive player with huge guaranteed money to boot.

It’s hard to say Watt didn’t earn this deal. He has been one of the most consistent young pass rushers in the league with 29.5 sacks the last two seasons. He also had the leverage of Pittsburgh needing to retain as many homegrown talents as possible for the rocky road ahead these next few seasons.

Watt also has some extra value in a division where if you can’t get to Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow on a consistent basis twice a year, then you basically have no shot.

Hopefully, this also send somewhat of a signal to Cincinnati that these are the kind of deals you will have to give to top end players like the best safety in the NFL.

Baker Mayfield and Browns still without an extension

Mayfield may not care whether he has an extension or not going into 2021. However, it is a bit peculiar that the two sides haven’t really had major talks yet.

Mayfield led the team to a game within the AFC Championship game, which is just a combinations of words you would have never expected to hear with a Browns quarterback nearly five years ago. The franchise has come quite a long way, but Mayfield’s up-and-down play has been somewhat noticeable.

It helps that Cleveland has one of the best offensive lines and running games in the NFL, so they don’t have to rely on Mayfield to throw 40 to 50 times a game. It is still just strange to see the first quarterback to turn this team around not being given the key to the franchise at this point.

If the Browns think they are capable of going where everyone thinks they can then Mayfield can really put himself in talks for the highest paid quarterback in the NFL if he even gets a chance to sniff free agency. The question is how much of the team gets sacrificed in the wake of that deal. It remains an interesting storyline to watch in Cleveland.