Around the AFC North: Steelers Left Tackle Reportedly Set to Visit Ravens

041921-AFC-North
Steelers T Alejandro Villanueva

Pittsburgh Steelers: Will Villanueva Leave to Join Rival Ravens?

Free agent Alejandro Villanueva is reportedly thinking about switching sides in the Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry.

After starting every game at left tackle in Pittsburgh for the past five seasons, Villanueva will reportedly visit Baltimore this week, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Baltimore has two Pro Bowl tackles in left tackle Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., who has played primarily at right tackle during his career. However, Brown has expressed a desire to play left tackle exclusively, after taking over for Stanley last season when he suffered his season-ending ankle injury.

Adding a proven veteran like Villanueva would give the Ravens more insurance and flexibility regardless of whether the Ravens trade Brown or don't re-sign him after next season when he would be eligible to become a free agent.

Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta declined to comment in detail Monday about Villanueva's reported visit, or about the likelihood that Brown will be traded.

"I'm not going to talk about any ongoing discussions with Orlando, whatever that might be," DeCosta said. "There's always a lot of moving parts in any offseason. We're just basically approaching this with how we can build the best possible team to play in September. I'm also not going to comment on any reports of any players visiting or not visiting Baltimore. It doesn't really benefit us to talk about those kind of things, especially this time of year."

Villanueva has options, and reportedly has not ruled out the possibility of re-signing with the Steelers.

Cleveland Browns: Cutting Sheldon Richardson a Calculated Risk

Two days after signing edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, the Browns reportedly cleared $11.5 million in salary cap space by releasing starting defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on April 16. A former Pro Bowler, Richardson is still an effective player at age 31 with 64 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season.

Letting Richardson hit the open market is a gamble for the Browns, but once the agreement was reached with Clowney, Richardson became expendable.

It remains possible that Richardson will re-sign with Cleveland later this offseason, but the Browns needed more cap flexibility to address other priorities. Mary Cay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer expects the Browns to soon pick up the fifth-year options of quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward. The Browns may also begin contract talks regarding an extension for running back Nick Chubb.

While Richardson had 7.5 sacks over the past two seasons and started 31 games, Cleveland believes its front seven anchored by Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett has been upgraded. The Browns signed defensive tackle Malik Jackson in free agency, and they are hoping Clowney will be an impact player if he stays healthy and pairs with Garrett to terrorize quarterbacks.

If Richardson ultimately returns on a less expensive contract, the decision to release him will be a win-win for the Browns. If Richardson signs elsewhere, the Browns will hope young defensive tackles Jordan Elliott and Andrew Billings take advantage of their chance for more playing time.

Cincinnati Bengals: Trae Waynes Is Recovered From Season-Ending Injury

The Cincinnati Bengals have been waiting to reap the benefits of signing Trae Waynes in 2020 as a free-agent cornerback. Waynes suffered a season-ending pectoral injury early in training camp last August and missed the entire season. However, he says he has made a full recovery and is ready to lead Cincinnati's secondary.

"I'm not limited in any way," Waynes said via the Bengals' website. "I've been doing basically everything. I would say 100 percent. I feel fine."

Waynes and free-agent acquisition Chidobe Awuzie are expected to be Cincinnati's new starting corners in 2021. In five seasons with the Vikings, Waynes had seven career interceptions, and Bengals Cornerbacks Coach Steve Jackson expects the veteran to make a huge difference.

"Great athlete and a great corner," Jackson said. "He's got all the intangibles and he's got the physical skillset. He's been good his whole life."

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