State of the Division: The AFC North

The AFC North was a peculiar division pre-draft this year. The Cleveland Browns did almost all of the heavy lifting in terms of moves made. The rest of the teams mostly spun their wheels and decided the offseason was for allowing themselves a chance to get one year closer to their player contracts expiring. It’s not that they did nothing, it’s just that they did nothing that I care about. The AFC North might be the Browns’ division for the taking by 2020, and the other three teams have nobody to blame but themselves.

 

The Baltimore Ravens
Out of the non-Mistake by the Lake teams in the AFC North, the Ravens did the most to address their biggest weakness. I hope I don’t hurt their feelings, but their entering free agency WR corps of Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, Quincy Adeboyejo and DeVier Posey didn’t exactly turn heads (at the local JV football game). To that, they stacked Michael Crabtree and John Brown. That doesn’t revamp the WR corps, but anything that keeps Breshad Perriman off the field is a plus, in my book. Their biggest free agency move was re-signing last season’s starting Left Guard to play Right Tackle. Oh, and they signed Robert Griffin III, so look out Joe “is Joe “is Joe Flacco Elite” Flacco” Elite” Flacco, there’s a QB controversy a-brewin’. Maybe they’re trying to make everyone forget about them? Try the crab cakes, because unlike the Baltimore roster, they aren’t full of pointless filler.

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The Cincinnati Bengals
It’s hard to figure out what exactly the Bengals have as their game plan. Unlike the Ravens, who won the Super Bowl in the last decade, the Bengals seem content spinning their wheels with a half-hearted attempt at building a competent, cohesive roster. Likely they are waiting for their first two picks last season (John Ross and Joe Mixon) to do slightly more than nothing of value in 2018. In true Bengals fashion, the biggest moves were the players headed out of town. A.J. McCarron, Kevin Minter, and Jeremy Hill absconded off to the AFC East. Andre Smith is a Cardinal, and Chris Smith an intra-state traitor in Cleveland. The Bengals went after Matt Barkley and traded for Cordy Glenn. They really are going to just go as far as Andy Dalton can’t take them. Just fast-forward the Bengals to 2019, already.

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The Cleveland Browns
Oh man, finally, a team that actually did something this offseason. While the AFC North was sitting around twiddling thumbs, the Browns traded all their quarterbacks (DeShone Kizer to Green Bay, Kevin Hogan to Washington and Cody Kessler to Jacksonville), traded for a starting quarterback (Tyrod Taylor), traded for (and richly extended) a great wide receiver (Jarvis Landry). They also traded two defensive starters to New England. While Joe Thomas retired, they went out and signed Chris Hubbard to a five-year deal. While he played RT in Pittsburgh last season, the Browns likely kick the tires on Hubbard on the blind side to see if he can replace their Iron Man. The Browns have done a ton this offseason, arguably more than the rest of the AFC North combined. And with five picks in the first 64 (and two of the first four), it’s unlikely they’re done dealing. The Browns may not be good next year, but at least they’ll be a story.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers
You know you’re in trouble when the biggest story of your offseason is your franchise’s legendary 1,000-year-old linebacker that you rage-cut near the end of the season retiring. I mean… I’m not exaggerating. Here’s the list of players the Steelers have signed or re-signed: Chris Boswell (kicker), Justin Hunter (tenth string WR), Nat Berhe (is this missing letters?), Stevan Ridley (Le’Veon Bell insurance), Daniel McCullers (he’s listed as Daniel McCullers-Sanders, too, and I need to get to the bottom of th—he’s already been cut), Morgan Burnett (was on a medical retirement for hot brains), Jon Bostic (again, this spelling can’t be right) and Fitzgerald Toussaint (there’s where all the missing letters went). What are you doing, Pennsylvania Retirement Community?

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