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The Top Offseason Issues for the Other AFC North Teams

Posted Feb 16, 2018

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a Le'Veon Bell issue. The Bengals have to figure out what to do with their offensive line. The Browns are still looking for their quarterback.

The Ravens have important questions to find solutions for this offseason, but they’re certainly not alone.

Here’s a look at some of the top offseason issues for their fellow AFC North teams:

Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 record: 13-3, divisional playoff loss
Coaching changes: Pittsburgh replaced Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley internally with Randy Fichtner, who has been the team’s quarterbacks coach the past eight seasons.
Top free agents: RB Le’Veon Bell, K Chris Boswell (restricted)
Salary-cap space: $6.8 million (31st in the NFL)
Draft needs: ILB, S, QB
Analysis: The Steelers’ biggest priority is figuring a solution with Bell, who said he would consider retiring if he’s given the franchise tag again. Both sides say they want to work out a long-term deal and could use the tag as a bridge. It would be surprising to see Pittsburgh let him walk. Pittsburgh will also look to find someone to take over at inside linebacker for Ryan Shazier, who suffered a tragic back injury last season. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says he wants to keep playing, but has floated out retirement in the past, so Pittsburgh could look for his heir apparent. The offense was potent under Haley, and it remains to be seen whether it will be as strong without him.

Cincinnati Bengals

2017 record: 7-9
Coaching changes: After much speculation that he would be out, Head Coach Marvin Lewis got a two-year extension. However, the Bengals shook up the rest of their coaching staff, hiring Teryl Austin (a former Raven) as defensive coordinator. James Urban, who was the Bengals’ wide receivers coach, came to Baltimore to coach quarterbacks, and Cincinnati replaced its offensive line and cornerbacks coaches.
Top free agents: ILB Kevin Minter, G Andre Smith, TE Tyler Eifert, QB A.J. McCarron [he won a grievance against the Bengals yesterday, making him unrestricted]
Salary-cap space: $36.3 million (12th)
Draft needs:
Analysis: The Bengals had the lowest-ranked offense in the league last year. They didn’t pay to retain left tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler, and their offensive line struggled for much of the year as a result, though it played better down the stretch. Cincinnati saw a drop-off in performance from quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, and first-round wide receiver John Ross hardly played. The Bengals have young talent, but have been below .500 the past two years.

Cleveland Browns

2017 record: 0-16
Coaching changes: Head Coach Hue Jackson was retained, but he gave up offensive play-calling duties to Haley, who switched teams within the division. Ken Zampese will be the team’s new quarterbacks coach. The biggest change was in the front office, where former Kansas City Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey brings a more experienced, traditional approach after the team waded heavily into analytics in recent years.
Top free agents: RB Isaiah Crowell
Salary-cap space: $110.7 million (1st)
Draft needs: QB, RB, CB
Analysis: The Browns have won just one game the past two years, but they have some of the building blocks for success if they can figure out the quarterback position and get more playmakers. Their defense was solid last season, especially against the run. They have one of the strongest offensive lines in the NFL. However, it’s the same old story in Cleveland as they are still on the hunt for a steady, franchise signal-caller. The Browns have the No. 1 and No. 4-overall picks in this year’s draft and the most salary-cap room in the NFL, so they have the ammunition to get better quickly.

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