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AFC North: Looking at the Steelers, Bengals and Browns' offseason needs

AFC North: Looking at the Steelers, Bengals and Browns' offseason needs

For many NFL teams, the offseason is when the rebuilding begins.

WIth the Feb. 20 opening of the franchise tag period earlier this week and with the NFL Combine begining next week, the rebuilding starts fast and happens faster. 

Before you know it September will be here.

The next few months are critical for teams to address team needs, adjust their salary cap situations and plan for the future.

For the Steelers, Bengals and Browns, their needs vary as each team has had very different levels of success.

In 2017, the Steelers were serious contenders to win Super Bowl LII and then you have the Browns who couldn't win a single game.

We've taken a look at the Ravens' biggest offseason needs, but how about their AFC North rivals? 


Pittsburgh Steelers: 

There were some questionable coaching decisions in the Steelers' 45-42 AFC Championship loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Down by seven with two timeouts and the two minute warning, head coach Mike Tomlin decided to go with an onside kick instead of punting with 2:18 left.  As you guessed it, the onside kicked didn't go in their favor and ultimately ended their playoff run. Many called for the firing of Tomlin after the questionable call.

That didn't happen but the team was still left with concerns about their future heading into the offseason.

Running back Le'veon Bell played 2017 on the team's exclusive franchise tag after the two couldn't come to an agreement on a long-term deal. Bell said they're closer in negotiations this year than last, and it would be difficult to see the organization let one of the best backs in the league just walk away.

Another big question mark is addressing the inside linebacker position with Ryan Shazier's future questionable after suffering a scary spinal injury. 

Ben Standig's most recent mock draft has the Steelers taking ILB, Rashaan Evans out of Alabama in the first-round.

Cincinnati Bengals:

During the end of the 2017 regular season, there was narrative from head coach Marvin Lewis that he would be exploring other opportunities after 15 seasons with the team.

In those 15 seasons, the organization made seven playoff runs but did not win a single playoff game, leaving many to question why Lewis was still a part of the organization. 

Well, the Bengals proved their loyalty to Lewis and gave him an extension through the 2019 season, making the head coach question obsolete.

Now the biggest question is can they rebuild their offense? They lost Pro Bowler's Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth during 2017 free agency. They've already fired O-line coach Paul Alexander to kick the rebuilding process off. 

In Ben Standig's latest mock draft, he has the Bengals taking offensive tackle Mike McGlinchy out of Notre Dame at No. 12.

Cleveland Browns:

The Browns, man. Where to start?

Luckily, the have the No.1 and No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, almost guaranteeing them two successful players.

Their most glaring need, like seasons past, has been finding their man under center. So far they haven't had any luck, but maybe that could change this season with a veteran like Kirk Cousins. Even drafting someone like Sam Darnold out of USC and developing him under Cousins has the potential for success. Standing's mock draft then has the team taking running back Saquon Barkley out of Penn State at No.4.

The future looks as promising as ever for the Browns.


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With 3-year extension for Tavon Young, Ravens begin stockpiling young talent

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With 3-year extension for Tavon Young, Ravens begin stockpiling young talent

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens defensive back Tavon Young has signed a three-year contract extension, part of the team's effort to retain budding talent.

The 24-year-old Young had one year left on his rookie contract, but first-year general manager Eric DeCosta wanted to get a jump on keeping the slot cornerback.

DeCosta says he "talked a few weeks ago about keeping our best young players, and Tavon is the definition of that."

After spending the entire 2017 season on injured reserve with a torn ACL, Young played in 15 games last season despite being bothered by a groin injury. He had 34 tackles, an interception and two fumble returns for touchdowns.

“To see him last year overcome the knee injury in the manner that he did, the work ethic his intensity and desire to be the best, is really impressive,” DeCosta said. “We look at what we think of the player and how he approaches his job day-to-day. We see him in the building. For me personally, seeing Tavon, watching him rehab, spoke volumes.”

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Young was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft after playing at Temple.

In his two seasons as an active player, Young has 86 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Young's contract extension will make him the highest paid nickel in the NFL, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. As to how he's going to celebrate? The Oxon Hill, Md native is going to keep it close to home.

“Just go out with my family, probably – take my mom and my dad out,” Young said. “I’m just happy for them. I called my mom [and] she couldn’t believe it. She was like, ‘Are you lying? Are you for real?’I’m like, ‘Yes, mom!’ I’m just so happy I can just take care of them now. It’s a blessing.”

NBC Sports Washington's Lisa Redmond contributed to this story.


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Ravens think concerns about Lamar Jackson injuries are 'overrated'

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Ravens think concerns about Lamar Jackson injuries are 'overrated'

Those concerns about Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson injuring himself when he hits the gas pedal in the open field are "overrated."

At least that's how new offensive coordinator and former assistant head coach & tight ends coach Greg Roman feels.

"It’s a little overrated, the whole danger thing," Roman said Tuesday. "Why? Because, and this is empirical data here, over the years you kind of realize that when a quarterback decides to run, he’s in control. So now [if] he wants to slide, he can slide. If he wants to dive, he can dive, get out of bounds -- all of those different things. He can get down, declare himself down. A lot of the time, the situations that [have] more danger are when he doesn’t see what’s coming -- my eyes are downfield, I’m standing stationary from the pocket, somebody is hitting me from the blindside."

Roman was promoted at the start of the offseason as the team begins shaping their offense around Jackson's run-heavy style of play. A style of play - that with the help of Roman - led the Ravens to the postseason for the first time in three seasons.

After Joe Flacco - a pocket-style quarterback - injured his hip after getting hit against the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9, Jackson eventually earned the starting job, and over seven games finished the season with 147 rushing attempts for 695 yards and five rushing touchdowns. Those 147 rushing attempts set the record for most attempts by a quarterback in a single season since the 1970 merger.

His speed is undeniable. His lack of fear as well. But how long he'll be able to sustain that immortality has been a talking point since he took off running Week 11.

The Ravens have a prime example of what can go wrong in backup QB Robert Griffin III, whose rookie season with the Washington Redskins was headlined by what would be a career-altering knee injury. Jackson's coaches, however, find the reward greater than the risk. 

"Every player is one play away from being hurt, and every quarterback standing in the pocket is one hit away from being hurt, too," head coach John Harbaugh said in January. "But the fact that he gets out and runs and scrambles ... I get it; I think it’s fair to consider that, but you can’t live your life in fear. I think there’s just as much fear on the other side that he’s going to take the thing to the house if he gets out and runs, too. So, we’ll live in that world as opposed to the other world."

Education was key last season and will continue to be going forward. During his press conference Tuesday, Roman mentioned that providing Jackson with the proper decision-making techniques is already in the works. 

"My experience, and I kind of learned this, is that when the quarterback takes the ball and starts to run, there’s not a lot of danger involved in that relative to other situations," Roman added. "Now, how does he handle those situations, to your point? Yes, last year, for example, was a learning curve for him on how he would handle a situation. Do we really want to take those hits? Why would I cut back against the grain when I could take it out the front door into space? All of those things started last year."