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Around the AFC North: Could Ezekiel Elliott Be Right Fit for Bengals?

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs against the Houston Texans during an NFL Football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022.

Cincinnati Bengals: Will Ezekiel Elliott Return to Ohio?

Speculation continues that Cincinnati could be Ezekiel Elliott's next NFL destination.

The Cowboys released the veteran running back in March, and the Bengals have been mentioned among Elliott's preferred landing spots. The Elliott-to-Bengals talk received more fuel Friday when a video on social media showed Elliott and Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase together at a training facility.

Ben Baby of ESPN pointed out that Elliott and Chase are friends and have the same agent, Rocky Arceneaux. 

The Bengals could free up significant salary cap space by releasing veteran running back Joe Mixon, and Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn did not guarantee Mixon's return at the NFL Owners Meetings.

Elliott was a star running back at Ohio State and joining the Bengals would be a homecoming of sorts. It would also allow Elliott to join an offense with serious firepower led by quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receivers Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. 

"Talking to some teams and people around the league, they believe the Bengals could be looming large," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said on NFL Live. "I'm told they're looking to add a running back in either free agency or the draft, either to pair with Joe Mixon or if they were to move on from Mixon they could save nearly $8 million in cap space. I do expect the Bengals to make a move at some point and Elliott would sort of play into their mold of running a power option running game."

Cleveland Browns: Kareem Hunt Reportedly Won't Return to Browns

Kareem Hunt is another veteran running back like Elliott who remains a free agent. While it hasn't been determined where Hunt will sign, he won't be returning to Cleveland, according to Terry Pluto of

"I kept hearing from the Browns that Hunt was "slipping" in terms of his speed," Pluto wrote. "He averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry. Pro Football Focus ranked him 53rd out of 62 qualifying running backs.

"The Browns want to break in Jerome Ford in the Hunt role. They believe Ford brings extra value because they like him as a kickoff return man. Hunt is 27. One theory in the NFL is running backs in their late 20s are in decline. That's the view of Hunt. He's not coming back to Cleveland."

Cleveland's ground game is led by Nick Chubb, one of the NFL's top backs who has enjoyed four straight 1,000-yard seasons and is still in his prime at age 27. That would make it easier for the Browns to part with Hunt if they decide Ford has earned the backup role.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Will Cole Holcomb Bring Stability at Inside Linebacker?

After signing a three-year contract worth a reported $18 million during free agency, Cole Holcomb is being counted on by Pittsburgh to bring stability to the inside linebacker position.

Jon Bostic, Devin Bush, Mark Barron, Joe Schobert and Myles Jack are among the inside linebackers that have come and gone for Pittsburgh since Ryan Shazier's serious spinal injury in 2017. Head Coach Mike Tomlin and at the Owners Meetings that it's a challenge to find an off-ball linebacker to handle the responsibilities of Pittsburgh's system.

"So much of the position is intangible quality, leadership, communication and things of that nature," Tomlin said via Brooke Pryor of "It probably adds to the complexity of the talent acquisition. I think that's probably the best way to describe it."

Holcolm started seven games and made 69 tackles for Washington last season before a foot injury ended his season. The Steelers also signed inside linebacker Elandon Roberts in free agency from the Dolphins, and Roberts and Holcolm could be the starting inside linebacker pairing next season.

"I like their style of play," Tomlin sad. "They're just veteran guys that are capable of playing. E-Rob I've been highly familiar with since he came out of Houston. We were down there at his pro day and just liked his play demeanor, and that has not changed over the seven years that's been his career. ... Holcomb is an athletic guy. He can run, he can get to things. He's put together a nice body of work in Washington."

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